Friday, June 23, 2017

4 things I gain by being at YGC Junior

In Yarl Geek Challenge Junior, the school children who compete in it has continued to surprise and inspire us. Its been a great platform for these children, they had excelled and showcased their talents. I believe that part of the story, describing why it has been good for children is well understood, but what gets overlooked on why it has been useful to me by being there.

1. I learn from kids
It might sound weird, but the truth is - Being an adult (or an old man!) YGC made me accept that I have an 'adulterated mind' and when it comes to creativity it works counter intuitively. Dealing with smart kids, I see them proposing creative solutions to real life problems, which should have been straight forward but due to my prejudices and learnings I had got blinded to the 'obvious'. YGC is a good place to wind off, unlearn and look at the world from the eyes of smart, intelligent children immersed in a time bound problem solving environment.

2. Learnt the introverts way of networking
I had attended countless business networking events and being an introvert, my hit rate has been very limited at converting good sustainable associations there after. But strangely, I find the connections made from YGC has been more long term and sustainable. Being a tech event, perhaps its a place where there is an equal mix of introverts and extroverts! Making it easy for even the introverts to network and it gives you two whole days to get to know more people and expand your network while working for a common cause.

3. Chance to meet a lot of good hearted people
The volunteering brings together people who have a big heart. I find that the need to give your time and energy without a monetary gain in return serves as a natural filter of good hearted people. With all due respect to others who doesn't get to volunteer, just want to emphasise that I am not implying the vice versa of this.

4. I leave with a lot of hope and a bit of self satisfaction
Looking at those children and their creativity, passion and talent, I always leave after YGC Junior with a very positive outlook about the future. It reassures every time that the future generation is much more smarter and capable than our generation and the future is in safe hands. Finally and most importantly it makes me feel satisfied that I had done a small bit to make the future better.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ūki the Coding Accelerator

[10th of April 2017 in Jaffna]
Yarl IT Hub in collaboration with SERVE foundation officially commenced operations of Ūki, a full scholarship based coding accelerator with a cohort of 16 students (9 female and 7 males) by short listing from 43 applicants. Its named as http://www.uki.life/ - meaning catalyst in Tamil.
The inauguration was conducted as a small function for the selected students and their parents in the presence of partners of this programme and Yarl IT Hub Community members. Find the pictures of the function at https://www.facebook.com/pg/yarlithub/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1324906430911210
The goal of the programme is to train students who had sat for Advanced level examinations and doesn't have access to University education or Vocational training to go through a full time rigorous training programme for six month on the basic skills required to get their foot in to door of the IT Industry as interns.
The following areas will be covered during the six months.
  1. Full stack programming - Using Node JS and Maria DB
  2. English Language training - This course component is offered by our Educational Partner British Council Jaffna. To provide high quality English Language Training and soft skills program to the students.
  3. Introduction to basics of business
  4. Personal Coaching
  5. Personal project - Each student will work and complete a personal software development project.
We are signing up leading Technology companies as Corporate partners and they had committed to have their in house experts interact with the students during the programme and share knowledge with the students and once the students complete the programme to offer them an opportunity to face interviews for internships at their organization. If you wish to collaborate, please do get in touch with us.
The big dream is to tweak and get the formula right and eventually scale the programme to positively influence more people! A big thank you to everyone who has been contributing in many different ways to get to this point, it has been a true community effort and looking forward to all the support to make this social initiative successful.
Posted on behalf of the Yarl IT Hub Community

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trying to immediately apply everything you learn

Few years ago, I used to have this craze of trying to apply the latest thing I had learnt or read at the immediate next task. When I learnt the "Facade pattern", I wanted to include it in the next piece of code I wrote. When I learnt the blue ocean strategy, I wanted to call every other market opportunity a blue ocean. After a while I realised that I  had passed the epidemic to others too. At times it was to embarrassing levels where people around me started freely using the term "untapped market" in embarrassing contexts.

The wake up call came from a colleague, who bluntly criticised me for this obsession. My ego was heavily wounded. Spontaneously I attempted to defend myself, but in my head I knew his observation was correct.

In my own journey I haven't still come out of this syndrome, not sure whether I could ever come out. But by following a few quick things, I think I have managed to keep my urge under check. In case, if someone else also has the same 'syndrome', I thought sharing my 'therapy' might help and open a discussion on how others deal with this and learn from them.

Now I try to reflect and try to observe my own analytical process gravitating towards the latest read item, which is helping me to suppress the instinctive urge to use the latest thing I had learnt out of context.  I have started asking tough questions from myself, on the contextual relevance and applicability. Secondly I had started to do these experimentations alone on a piece of paper, so it doesn't happen in public, till I really know its relevant. Thirdly, I had increased the amount of time spent on reading, so that I read things for the joy of gaining knowledge and perspective, than with the intent of applying immediately.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mrs. Jeyamangalam Ganesharatnam - Aunt, Teacher, Leader

When we were kids she was the aunt who pampered and spoilt us. She had the peculiar ability to attract children and keep them under control. Each one of us at some point, thought or wished that we were aunty's favourite nephew or niece. With age, realised that it was a highly contested space!

During war times, besides the times she visited us and stayed with us, the interactions were not regular.  On my way on the first post war visit to her house. I got in to a three wheeler at Point pedro and told that I want to be dropped close to "Veerapathira kovil", driver asked "Is it to Jeyam aunty's house?". I was surprised and replied "Yes, how did you know that she is my aunt?". He replied "No, she is Jeyam aunty to all of us".

I knew she had a great career as a Teacher serving in Gampola and then in Point Pedro. At that point, although I knew she was in to social services. I was ashamed that didn't know details of her transformation to "Jeyam aunty for all".

Then I understood, how she has given community leadership to form a grass root level, not for profit women's empowerment organisation during tough times. Through this  organisation she has managed to obtain funds to establish and run a micro financing system for the village. It was a mini Grameen at work! Frequently, what she set up is referred as the model for those who want to set up similar initiatives in the region. She also was engaged in promoting livelihood projects for women. Introducing and encouraging them to start small businesses around sewing, creating packaged food, etc.

I admire for what she has managed to achieve. Mainly the amount of lives she has been able to positively impact on. Fortunately, I was one of those lucky  ones to have had a chance to get positively influenced and inspired by her. For me she is a real life hero.

May her soul rest in peace!

Mrs. Jeyamangalam Ganesharatnam (22/05/1946 to 10/09/2015)




Saturday, August 8, 2015

Copying cycles

Bicycle rider in front of Oslo Opera House
I am pretty old now and embarrassingly I don't know to ride a two wheeler, three wheeler or a four wheeler. Its something that my mother never forgets. She asks me very often "When are you planning to get your license?". I will answer that another day.

Nevertheless my inability to ride a bicycle has not impacted on my fascination for them nor seeing opportunities around them. (at least I feel so)

I have this strong feeling that utilising commoditisation of 3D printing, someone will be able to make a strong impact on the large cycle market in the Northern Sri Lanka. Potentially if it could also add some more color and variety to the existing largely dull bicycles, it might and could go viral.

First question, is it doable?

Few years back I stumbled on the video below. It clearly shows that it was done a few years back. So definitely 'do-able'.  Technically I don't see a blocker in printing one of it with a dedicated team.

Can a business be made out of it?

My gut says yes, at the moment its not supported by any analysis or facts. I feel the way to do it, is to go through a phase of discovery. Lets form a team, pocket in some of our funds, buy 3D printer/s, material and work with a target day in mind. This exercise could help us establish whats the value addition or differentiation we could bring in. I believe in an affordable, personalisation trend with some super cool fibre mountain bikes hitting the roads with 3D printing.

So what next?

I had been trying to cajole the YIT team to buy in to this concept to run as the next project. Hasn't entirely sold it to the team, but at least have a few like Preethi, who seems to be open to explore. So I thought lets open up a wider discussion on this.

What do you think? Would you like to join this initiative? If needed, we can make this an open design? Eagerly looking forward to hear from the community.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Yarl Geek Challenge - Season 3 - Selections

Already a lot of independent posts have been made about YGC3 selections. This post is biased and from my own pair of dark shaded glasses. Pictures used in this blog are by Hareesan.

Format of YGC

We have been toying with the format of YGC from season 1. Evolving from a reality styled show to what we have currently. Which is a hybrid of a hackathon and a business plan competition. I think that we are heading in the right direction. Doesn't mean its perfect still. As YIT I think we need to keep on experimenting till we get it right. Hence we made it a point to go out of our way to ask from all the participants to throw all their criticism at us. One, it keeps us grounded. Two, it gives us an opportunity to look for brighter ideas to achieve the vision sooner.

YGC Junior

The kids were impressive and left the first timers to YGC awestruck. Gnanakeethan looked very promising and technically sound. He has a great journey in front of him if he manages to keep himself focused and stays grounded. Aptly the award for the overall winner prize was given away by Dr. Maheson a legendary personality in terms of IT in Jaffna.

Team from Jaffna Hindu College was adjudged as the Winner of Yarl Geek Challenge Junior Season 3.
Again I am impressed with the Girls from Vembadi. Their presentation and speaking skills are exceptional. I hope that they do take to IT. Watching them I was thinking that a grassroot level initiative is needed to make more girls take to IT and start creating things. They should break out of the stereotypes on the job categories designated for women. Probably ladies already in IT should help to take this message and inspire the kids to take to IT. Any volunteers? YIT will back you!

Teams from Vembadi Girls High school won the two category prizes for the best mobile and best web applications. The winners of the mobile application category created a mobile application to help in the fight against Ebola. I was wondering and then finally walked up to them and asked on how they came up with that concept.

VGHS team who won the best mobile category getting the prize from Sarves

VGHS Team which won the best web application category getting the prize from Dr. Roshan.
This time we also had a hardware category. A team from Karainagar with minimum resources managed to win this. Thanks to Niroshan they had a working prototype of a letter detector for letter box made out of Arduino.

Best hardware Category was won by the team from Dr. Thiyagaraja M.M.V, Karainagar.
Prize was given by Eric - Chairman of LAN


YGC 3
I do not wish to comment about individual teams at this point of time. Since the opportunity round is happening this weekend and the finale will be held on the 22nd November. In short, the teams look promising. I hope and pray a few start ups will get funded and take their products to market.

Out of the 6 teams which have qualified for the finale  as of now . Two teams are from the 6 month old Engineering faculty from Kilinochchi. They come with minimal resources when compared with all the other Universities who competed from all over the Island, but had a lot of passion and commitment to make a statement.  Thananjeyan and Arunan. That's the biggest coup you guys could have pulled off. I am impressed. Now that you guys have set standards expecting to achieve greater heights.

Will be back with more after the finale.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Automating irrigation

Recently while I was in Jaffna it was extremely warm and humid. I asked my uncle, when was the last time it rained, he nodded and said he cannot recall. He then told me that a few years back there was a prediction saying that in 20 years time Jaffna will be a desert. He feared at this rate it might happen for real. I've no idea how accurate this prediction is or who made this prediction, but it gave me one more reason to believe that the Yarl IT Hub's newest project - Irrigation automation using open hardware makes a lot of practical sense.

In a region like Jaffna, where although water is a scarce resource agriculture either at commercial scale or as home garden is plentiful, the need for an affordable automated irrigation system is a must. YIT's DIA project tries to solve this problem.

Using open hardware the hand picked team of talented youngsters will build a localized blue print of mobile controlled DIA project. What they will be producing will be made in to a "Do it your self" open source project. Which basically means, a kid living in Jaffna will be able to buy the relevant affordable open source hardware either online or at shops, follow the instructions given online and set up the mobile controlled automated DIA irrigation project in his or her own home garden.

In Tamil they say "ஒரு கல்லில ரெண்டு மாங்காய்", direct translation means "Two mangoes with one throw". This project also has twin agenda, while solving the problem of irrigation we want to make open hardware accessible to the youngsters. So at least a few of them will take a few more steps and start experimenting with open hardware. Then hopefully, they will do greater things with it in future!

The team is working with a target to get an end to end prototype working by early June and then to have a complete blue print ready in three months time. Looking forward to an exciting time ahead.