By Sanuj Hathurusinghe (Ceylon Today Features)
It is undeniable that lateral thinking and innovation is the lifeblood of progress and development of a nation. Conversely, it is a nation's duty to promote lateral thinkers, innovators and inventors. In the bid of promoting such talent, Sri Lanka Inventors Commission recently held 'Sahasak Nimavum' – a national exhibition for inventions and innovations, for the sixth successive time.
400 of the country's best inventions chosen after meticulous provincial evaluation were displayed during the exhibition. What is astonishing about them was that about 300 of them had already applied for their Patents and were awaiting confirmation. Ceylon Today had a look at some of the unique inventions showcased in the exhibition.
J. A. S. Niloka's invention is called Anti-Lock Accelerator System for Non-Electrical Motor Bikes. In a nutshell, what the technology-infused invention does is protect the rider before and even after an accident. Niloka thinks it is a timely necessity as the majority of accidents taking place in the country are associated with motor bikes.
Unlike cars, bikes are not equipped with high-end safety measures. Not to say that there aren't bikes with safety measures but those normally are costly. Niloka's aim is to provide bikes with a good and affordable safety mechanism.
A sensor placed on the kickstand gives signals to let the system know if the kickstand is out. While the bike is on stand, the throttle won't work even if the engine is running. This means that anyone can leave the bike without turning the ignition off and it won't move even if someone, for example a curious kid, decides to turn the throttle.
There is a limit a bike can be tilted while riding around a bend. It depends on the speed and many other characteristics of the bike. Tilting over will result in the bike falling down.
The safety system has a built-in algorithm that calculates the amount of degrees the bike can be tilted at any given speed. If the bike is leaning over or dangerously close to the limit, a warning alarm would sound and the rider would know to slow down. Niloka says this not only makes riding safe but also makes it an ideal learning tool for beginners.
More to drones than surveillance
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) sound high-tech and somewhat out of our league. It is not unheard of First World countries using such craft to carry out military operations and surveillance missions but the uses of them are not limited only to defence purposes.
Future Drones, a local drone start-up, has identified the potential applications of drones in different fields and hasn't stopped there. The company has built two UAVs so far here in Sri Lanka.
The larger one of the two is called 'Ceyhawk.' A gasoline-powered vehicle it can lift up to 12 kilos and is capable of being airborne for four hours.
The Director of Future Drones, Chamika Gamage says the UAV can be used in aerial mapping and remote sensing, disaster management, geological surveying and urban planning, precision agriculture, search and rescue, forestry management and of course, surveillance.
The latter and smaller design is called 'Ceybee' and it is capable of mapping 900 acres of land within 40 minutes. The new model is equipped with cameras that stream real-time video and has return-to-launch technology. At the time of an emergency, a parachute landing too is possible onto any type of surface.
Machine to make
With the recent ban on polythene, lots of alternatives came into the limelight. Among them were using stems of areca nut leaves or 'kolapath' as we colloquially call it, in making plates and containers.
While it is eco friendly and sustainable to use kolapath in making plates, the naturally hard material needs to be rigidly pressed into shape to make any use of it. Lance Corporal J. C. I. Nishanthi has used her culinary knowledge and knowledge of machinery to build a plate-making machine on her own.
Her machine is electricity powered and has three different types of templates. It only takes mere seconds to press a single kolapatha into the shape of a plate using her machine.
Not just the idea and plans for the machine, but building the machine from scratch was also done by Nishanthi herself utilizing resources she had at her disposal at her workplace, the Sri Lanka Army.
Her very first kolapath pressing machine had no electric element to it and used a screw to hand-press plates. That was way back in 2012 and her latest invention was made aiming the exhibition itself. Nishanthi's innovativeness expands to her trade that is being a chef as well. She has come up with 54 different food items prepared utilizing only the coconut tree and its fruit. She plans to publish her culinary findings in the form of a book soon.
Safety nail clipper
While some of the inventions saw an abundance of science and technology pumped into them, some of the inventions involved less technology but more out-of-the-box thinking.
We all have used nail clippers to trim our finger nails and have spent ages looking for some nails that have flown off. If only there was a way of stopping nails from flying all over the place.
Mariga Lawrence, a fifteen-year-old student from St. Xavier's Girls College, Mannar, thought the same but she didn't just stop at thinking. She actually went on to design a safety nail clipper. Lawrence is not a stranger to the constant naggings of moms as hers too used to breathe down her neck whenever she clipped her nails. In her household it was considered a bad omen to leave cut nails here and there in places where people might step on them.
To ease her mother's worries she created a safety nail clipper. Her nail clipper has a plastic shield over it that doesn't allow nails to fly and a small box below collects all the cut nails in it.
Lawrence's first safety nail clipper had all the additional features made out of cardboard. The latest version has the shield made out of see-through plastic and the box out of steel.
The clipper is not only handy for adults to use but makes it safer to cut babies' nails and even pet animals' nails as well.
Hit the lights and
Pulling an all-nighter studying is not that uncommon among students. Having all the lights switched on during the time could be very costly. A table lamp is a good way of reducing power consumption but now the electricity bill can even be lessened with Charith Dananjaya Kumara's simple and yet unique invention.
What Kumara has done is simply attach an LED bulb to the tip of a normal pen. In his latest version, the pen comes with a rechargeable battery attached to it. Kumara says a single charge is enough to last a whole night.
Despite a battery being attached, the pen does not feel that heavy to the touch and is nimble enough to hold. His previous versions had normal batteries which needed replacing once the power drained.
Kumara has spent next to nothing while making his improvised pen. It goes to show innovation does not necessarily require money but a little creativity in thinking. His pen can also be used to take notes in any place where there is no light.
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