Revolutionising the world of technology
Eyes were opened, minds blown and the unimpressionable impressed by the talents of the young inventors of the Moratuwa University at ‘EXMO 2017’ which was held at the Civil Engineering Department Auditorium on April 28 and 29.
Nathan Sivagananathan, Chief Growth Officer of MAS Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and Nihal Rupasinghe, Secretary to the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry as Guest of Honour.
Professor Kapila Perera started the opening ceremony by welcoming the various parties who had attended the event. He explained how EXMO came to being and what these projects were all about.
“The main purpose of this event is to showcase the talents of the final year undergraduates. Every student attending one of the ten departments in the university’s engineering faculty have a mandatory project in their curriculum. They have to research and come up with a product or service to present as their final year project. Most of the projects are centred around resolving social problems, and the undergraduates have to submit a synopsis and formulate their project. They need to take up leadership and develop organisational and analytical skills. They identify the problem, choreograph a research methodology through a survey, solve the problem and come up with a final product.”
He said the projects should not be limited to those attending the university.
“Most of the time, these projects are showcased within the university to different departments. However, four years of effort and experience cannot be limited to the departments but should be criticised and critically evaluated by others. But this too does not do justice to their efforts, we have other university deans, students, people working in industries and those who are aspiring to become future engineers who need to get their queue from these products. At the end of the day, it is the general public who will be the beneficiaries because they are the investors. The main objective of EXMO is to showcase and gift the country with the undergraduates’ efforts. It is to open the minds of students and the general public to a world of engineering,” he added.
Mr. Nihal Rupasinghe, Secretary to the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry, addressed the event as the Guest of Honor. He briefed on how the future of the country and megapolis depended on the inventions of the engineering graduates.
“The future of our country and megapolis depend on engineering graduates. People are expecting new feats, new ideas and new facilities. These kinds of ideas coming to the young mind prove that when they go out into the industries, they will create a great impact on the industries.”
Next in line to address the gathering was Ananda Jayawardene, Vice Chancellor of the Moratuwa University. He started off by expressing his heartfelt gratitude to all those who extended their support to make the event a resounding success.
“You will see award-winning exhibits, inventions and innovations of the students, the start-up and spin-off companies of the university, undergraduate and postgraduate displays in this exhibition,” said Mr. Jayawardene.He stated that EXMO 2017 was a wonderful platform with educational and learning experiences for schoolchildren. “We invited over 10,000 schools and through the exhibition, we wish to create an interest in the minds of the students to study engineering at the Moratuwa University. It is a tremendous learning experience for the kids. The exhibition is not targeted at children alone. It will raise awareness of the technological advancements in our country and empower potential investors of the prototypes on display and the commercialisation of products.”
Mr. Jayawardene also mentioned about the future he envisions for the Moratuwa University.
“Our mission here at the university is to be the most globally-recognised knowledge-enterprising nation in South Asia and EXMO 2017 is therefore a tremendous boost in approaching our mission.”
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Sivagananathan said, “It is fascinating to imagine what the future holds. The timing of this exhibition with the objectives of strengthening the relationship with the industry and collaborating with them on research and innovation and showcasing what they have excites us all.”
Mr. Sivagananathan stated that developing the national economy was one of the main results that will come about from supporting this exhibition.
“MAS is focused on innovation and I am proud that we are partnered with the university on this occasion. It is not about sponsorship, but about supporting Sri Lanka, the entrepreneurship spirit, developing the future and increasing our GDP as a country. I am confident that the youngsters here, aspiring to be future leaders through engineering, will be inspired by what they see at this exhibition.”
He said the Moratuwa University could be compared with several other universities MAS had worked with. These include MIT, Oxford and Stanford. The science and engineering faculties in Sri Lanka truly exceed their expectations as more students are developed here.
Mr. Sivagananathan believes that our economy depends on three things: Education, entrepreneurship and innovation.
“First and foremost is education. Due to the limited number of seats in universities, a lot of students are missing the opportunity of receiving a higher education. On average, some 242 000 students sit for the A/L exam out of which 141 000 qualify. Unemployment rates between the age of 20 and 24 is at the highest at almost 19%. There is an urgent need for graduates in certain industries. There are industries such as automation, agriculture, tourism and transport that will determine the opportunity in Sri Lanka.”
“Secondly, it is entrepreneurship. There is an abundance of talent in this country. Students who are graduating from this university are in demand. We ourselves have a considerate number of graduates from this university. However, we don’t see a trend of graduates moving on and starting their own businesses as opposed to being employed. MAS is willing to fund these undergraduates’ businesses and projects. Only 0.7% of our final year projects get commercialised in Sri Lanka. The percentage of university projects in other countries goes up to 10-20%. Thus, there is a lack of incubators and accelerators to help inspire growth,” he added.
Finally, he spoke about innovations. “If you look at global innovation in depth, Sri Lanka is ranked 91. This amazes me because every student I have met in this university and many other universities in Sri Lanka far exceed the expectations we have. They have the opportunity to be global individuals with the opportunity to take their ideas to the market. Sri Lankans are generally conceived as conservatives and when you don’t take risks, we cannot innovate. It has not become a part of our culture, but we need to take risks.”
Mr. Sivagananathan concluded his speech by saying MAS was ready to support and encourage all innovators in their endeavors. “My advise for aspiring young students is to be focused, be willing to learn new things and be brave, listen to your mentors, understand your consumer keeping the commercial value in mind and also move away from an innovator’s lens to an inventor’s lens, be a changed agent and I hope that we can support you globally when you want to take your idea to the market.”