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

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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kids these days

'Kids these days' is a pretty popular phrase used by each generation on its next. To be precise each generation used to complain about the next. Now that I am old, seems like I have also picked this up. But in my case I am not complaining, but instead intrigued by the possibilities they present. While we tell others and more than others, we tell ourselves to think different. I am quite fascinated at times how kids think differently without anyone telling them to do so. 

In one case, I asked little Thenmozhi to show me a picture taken earlier on her father's phone. She picked the android phone clicked camera icon on short cut. I was about to repeat and tell her that I don't want her to take a new picture but instead want to see one of her earlier ones.  Before I could say it she clicked on the small picture icon on the left hand corner of camera view and started browsing the old pictures. I realized I have a very constrained and stereotyped world view. For me if I wanted to take a picture I need to go to camera app. If I wanted to browse earlier pics I wanted to either use file browser application or go to photos application. I have trained myself to see a one to one mapping between a function to be performed and an application. There by not seeing the most efficient access method.

The second case was little Dharshika, she so small that she can barely speak still. Someone has given her a toy phone with buttons on it. For a while it was her main toy. But recently she has started to reject it. Reason, she has observed that one of my aunt's have a phone on which she swipes. She has figured out swipe was cooler than keys ( How long did research in motion take to figure it! ) Not stopping at it after a while she walked up to the TV and took a good long swipe at the screen and the adults were not too pleased. I am not sure whether if they already have tvs where you can swipe and is free of all buttons.  But for me it was intriguing,  because on some of these, I have almost resigned to the fact that these stuff are already at optimal designed.

When I thought beyond the debate whether the questions they pose are right or wrong, it opened up an unadulterated perspective on technology.

I felt that those who are building products would have to wake up to a different reality.  It is going to be a different generation.  Growing up with devices and has a different intuitive thinking. To be a winner you will have to convince them.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. 
In the expert’s mind there are few" ~ Zen Monk Shunryu Suzuki