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Ye average School IT day is not that entertaining, It usually involves a small gathering of students in a hall with speeches about how IT is and what we’re expected to do to make IT work for us. Well, this too is an IT Day. There are speeches. There is a hall. But there’s a small difference. The small gathering of students is actually around 400 students. The speeches are given by industry leading experts, and the hall in question is the Grand Ballroom of the Galadari Hotel. This is Pulz ’15.

Organized by Ananda College, Colombo, Pulz is the quintissential ICT Day that has thus far been the only event taken at such a grand scale. Held annually, the event brings together students from leading schools in Colombo and suburban areas. Taglined as the “National ICT Convention”, the event was first held in 2006 as ye average ICT day. It clearly escalated from there.

We (being Binura and myself) located our seats and made ourselves comfortable whilst we waited for the event to start. A special shout out to Hutch for powering our Internet for providing endless connectivity throughout the day.

The event began in keeping with the traditional welcome dance and the lighting of the oil lamp. After a Dharma session, the audience was requested to observe one minute of silence as remembrance of the fallen war heroes. This was followed up by the singing of the National Anthem. Throughout all this, the screen in front reflects images such as the National flag and traditional images.

Pulz '15 - Not Your Average IT Day 14
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Pasindu Chathuranga, President of the ICT Society walked on stage to deliver the welcome speech. He talks about the history of Pulz and what the future has in store, he welcomes each and everyone to enjoy the event. Thus far we were.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

With the lights dimmed, the hall was in semi darkness. A video followed describing the history of Pulz. Upbeat music: check. Graphics: check. Headbanging: check. Overall, we were off to a kickass start.

Kithsiri Liyanagamage, Principal of Ananda College was up next to deliver his speech. He spoke about the importance of ICT in our country and also thanks the sponsors and schools that are attending from all over the country. They have travelled a wide distance and without their presence, this event would not have been, he says.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Gayantha Karunatilleke, the Minister of Mass Media was on stage next talking about the importance of learning ICT from a school level.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Learning IT not only improves your skill, but also builds up your personality. Given the advancement in IT, no country can afford to fall back and not take part in becoming a part of the global village.

He also explains how the Government has identified this need and as such, steps have been taken to encompass these findings and as such come up with relevant teaching methods into the current syllabus. He also talks about the strides taken by Ananda College and it’s ICT society in empowering the future students of Sri Lanka to become global IT professionals.

Once his speech is done, he was asked to remain on stage and was presented with a plaque by the Principal and president of the ICT society of Ananda College.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

The audience was then given an introduction of Pulz by two students of the ICT society, namely Dushan Chanuka and Tharuka Perera. Starting from 2006 with the inception of Pulz, they bring onscreen the competition and awards that the ICT society has taken part in. If you recall, they also took part in the Hackathon 2015 organized by Mobitel, and APICTA 2014. It was followed by Charith AKA Chille Wicrekemesignhe walking on stage to talk about APICTA and the project that they took part in.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Uvindu Avishka of Ananda College was up on stage to explain the rules and regulations of Pulz Challenge Trophy 2015. Each of the invited schools who have qualified the initial online quiz now have 20 minutes to answer a question paper placed on their tables. Each paper has 30 questions revolving around the core areas of IT. The winners of this quiz would go on to take part in a mini-hackathon scheduled to be held later within the day. Just to make sure that the teams finish on time, a large display shows a countdown timer.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

The timer hits zero signaling the end of the quiz. Prof. Gihan Wicramanayake was on stage next. He talks about looking at the various developments in IT and software engineering. He also talks about the various programmes offered by the UCSC and the disciplines of them if anyone is to carry forward their career in IT.

The audience is then treated to an entertainment item presented by the students of the Musaeus College. The dance is flairy and quite orange as Binura says.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Next were the Champions of Imagine Cup 2015. Boasting 7 out of 9 awards, the team is from Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), they were none other than Team Dimension X. We saw their idea “Shooters” at the Imagine Cup Awards, however, they go into detail on how the app works. You basically connect your phone to a modified toy gun (in this case a model Uzi submachine gun) and launch the app. From there, your phone acts as a viewfinder complete with built-in compass and the game begins. Sadly though it’s only available for Windows.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

After their presentation, it was time to announce the 10 teams that will go on to take part in the mini hackathon. The teams were

  • Royal Colllege
  • Wesley College
  • Malabe Boys School
  • Thomas’s College, Mt. Laviniya
  • Nalanda College
  • Peters College
  • Rathnavali Balika Vidyalaya
  • Ahaliyagoda Central College
  • Bridget’s Convent
  • Mahamaya Vidyalaya

Another interesting session that was brought forward was the literal launch of a website. Called SchoolHub (www.schoolhub.lk), think of it as a platform that keeps record of all school related events. It will basically keep a record of all events from a wide pool of schools. The project is funded and supported by IIT.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Next up was the Chariman of SLASSCOM, Jayantha De Silva, talking about the industry and its future.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

If you are not prepared to risk looking like a fool, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.

He spoke about how to measure success and why certain IT projects fail. One cannot survive alone, rather you will either be a part of a company or form a company. From there even if you go onto become a national company, do not stop there. Go global.

Business solution failure is one of the main reasons that young tech startups and businesses tend to fail. Basically a failure to plan is indeed a plan to fail.

The keys to success according to his speech; Knowledge, Technology, Functionality, Superior notices

He also lists down the key factors to success which is attitude, adaptability, agility. Master these and you can be at the top of the business world.

We moved out of the grand ballroom and made our way towards Salon Tulip (which neither smells of Tulip nor resembles a salon). The top ten teams that were picked from the quiz have been gathered here for the hackathon. Each team has been provided with a laptop and 3 scenarios for which they have to develop a solution.

The scenarios are as follows:

  1. Distribution and re­collection of school textbooks is a very costly affair each year. With the available technologies, the MoE wants to improve the process.
  2. Keeping track of citizens of a country is not easy. For an example a given citizen can have many official documents such as, Birth Certificate, Driver’s License, Passport, NIC, Marriage Certificate, etc. The government is interested in investing in a complete information system, with means to gather and maintain these information. (Consider the ground realities of Sri Lanka when coming up with a solution)
  3. The health ministry wants a system in place to measure and track water quality all over the island. This is a part of a project to ensure that all the citizens have access to good drinking water. How would an entrepreneur view this requirement?

The judging is based on various criteria such as the concept of the solution, level of innovation, execution and feasibility.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

While the Hackathon was happening, we were also told that it was time for lunch. So wrapping up at the Hackathon we headed for lunch.

After lunch was a presentation titled “Cutting Edge 2015”. This is a project organized by the final year students of IIT. The project will be in the form of a tech exhibition scheduled to be held at the end of the month.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Prof. Sirimewan Waidyasekara, Dean, Faculty of ICT and Media of SAITM was up on stage to talk about SAITM and the programmes it offers. His basic speech is about how we need to increase the revenue of the ICT industry in Sri Lanka. He then takes down memory lane to 150 years ago during the time of the industrial revolution. With developments to technology, we got computers and the internet. We are now in the age of Information with information literally available at our fingertips.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

The second entertainment item for the day is from a few members of the Western Music Association of Ananda College performing a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “You Look Wonderful Tonight” and Bryan Adam’s “Heaven”. The rendition was rather tranquil and calming.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Thulitha Piyasena, CEO of Knowledge Secrets (Pvt) Ltd was next up on stage. He introduces his best friend “Matilda” which is a smartphone. With technologies such as remote presence and artificial intelligence, we are all connected, he says.

Forget the money.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

If you don’t have 3 key factors (Head, Mouth, and Soul) then you can’t succeed in any of your endeavors.

Next up was a presentation by the junior members of the ICT Society. Their idea revolves around ocean buildings. Their idea is to help protect those who are homeless. Even though we cannot control the increase in population, we can however provide means of shelter of the increasing population. Using the power of the sea such as ocean waves and tidal power, we can generate electricity and even make use of solar power.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

The members moved around the stage with confidence (mind you they were around 12 or 13 years in age and conducted themselves at a very adult level).

Keshan Sodimana, country engineering consultant at Google spoke to the audience about Google TTS and ARS. These are basically technologies used by Google to turn text into speech and vice versa. He talks about how machines need to be programmed to accept data and information. He also talks about the ANN (artificial neural network. He delves further into ANN and talks about supervised learning and unsupervised learning. Supervised learning would be where data is labelled and entered into a system whereas unsupervised learning is the opposite.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

He then shows an example of a knowledge graph to display how information is linked. He also encourages the audience to contribute to knowledge sharing communities such as Wikipedia, Wikidata and the Translation community. He also shows off Google’s handwriting recognition tool and the developments in related areas.

Another entertainment item was brought to stage. This time a duo, one on a clavinova and one on a saxophone. They covered Christina Perry’s “A Thousand Years” and “Kiri Kodu” by BnS.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Another competition was taking place. Remember the 50 teams that were here? Well if you recall, 10 of the 50 teams were selected for a hackathon. The remaining 40 teams had now joined forces, two schools per table and have been provided with a bunch of exam papers. They have 60 minutes to answer the questions and a further 10 minutes for a presentation. All over the hall, teams huddle together to solve the problem of what they would do if YouTube was down. Not blocked, not censored, just down. Completely inaccessible. Sounds too scary to comprehend? Well let’s just see the solutions these schools can come up with.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Meanwhile, in in the Tulip Salon, the hackathon is under way with the deadline closing fast.

After a small award ceremony for the grade one and two IT students, another ceremony is held for those students who have excelled in Web designing, software development, motion graphics, still graphics and blueprint challenge comprising of students from grade 1-5. Clearly they have a pretty heavy IT curriculum.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

Dr. Beshan Kulapana of CodeGen was up next talking about the Vega high performance supercar. He runs through the basics of why to build an electric car. If you want to read more about it, we covered Vega and CodeGen in depth.

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Dr. Beshan’s speech comes to and the audience is treated to the third and final entertainment item by a student of St. Bridget’s Convent.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

First up for the interschool awards competition.

Champs for Interschool Software Development Competition

  • 3rd Place – Sithija Sahan Hasara Hewa Gamage – Rahula College, Matara
  • 2nd Place – M.H. Yasas Pasindu Bandara – Ranabima Royal College,
  • 1st Place – M.D.Dalana Pasindu Dharmatilake – Nalanda College

Interschool Web Development Competition

  • 3rd Place – Jayasanka Weerasinghe – St.Anthony’s College Kandy
  • 2nd Place – Sasith Nawanjana – Mahinda College
  • 1st Place – Chirath Ranwala – Nalanda College

Still Graphics Designing Competition

  • 3rd Place – Lishanya Moonesinghe – Ladies’ College
  • 2nd Place – Saumya Hansanie – Musaeus College
  • 1st Place – Dinura Deelaka Gallage – Bandaranayake College, Gampaha

2D and 3D

  • 3rd Place – Jeganmohan Amrithsagar – T/R.K.M Sri Koneswara Hindu College
  • 2nd Place – K.M. Suhail – Zahira College, Colombo 10
  • 1st Place – Thathsara Wagasenevi – Gampaha Sussex College

With these awards handed out, the teachers in charge of ICT Society of Ananda College were awarded special tokens for their hard work and dedication.

It was then time to announce the winners of the Mini-hackathon and the Coffee Table Discussion that took place within the event itself.

Winners of the Mini-Hackathon

  • Runners Up – S. Thomas’ College
  • 2nd Place – St. Bridget’s Convent
  • 1st Place – Royal College Colombo

Winners of the Coffee Table Discussion

  • 3rd Place – Mathara Rahula College and Hindu College, Trincomalee
  • 2nd Place – Mahanama College and Seevali Central College
  • 1st Place – Kingswood College Kandy

In addition the APICTA 2014 Award went to Charith Wickremesinghe of Ananda College.

When all was said and done, it was time for the final awards.

Royal College Colombo emerged as Runners Up for the Pulz Challenge 2015 and were awarded Scholarships worth Rs. 1 Million from Edulink.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

The grand Pulz 2015 Challenge Trophy was awarded to Nalanda College who walked away with Rs. 6 Million worth of Scholarship from IIT which roughly calculate to Rs. 1.5 Million per student. Now that is indeed an impressive prize.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

The Secretary of the ICT society thanked members of the staff for their work and words of encouragement, the Chief Guest, Gayantha Karunatilleke, Guest of Honor, Gihan Wicremenayake, all lecturers, and all participants and also members of the ICT society.

Photo Credits - Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Credits – Oshadi Prabhashika

With that Pulz ’15 drew to a close.

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