What we saw at Cutting Edge 2016: Part One

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The Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT) opened their doors to visitors last week. In a two-day celebration of innovation, Cutting Edge 2016 took off from 23-24 June. Exhibiting projects they’ve worked on for the undergrads of the campus, it was a chance to show just how far they’ve pushed content picked-up at lectures.

Encouraging students to explore their creative sides in devising solutions for practical issues, Cutting Edge has been on IIT’s calendar for the past 14 years. With the oil lamp lit, proceedings auspiciously began in the lobby where we saw invitees and dressed-up undergrads congregate.

Speckling the gathering were students representing schools as well. Scheduled to take place alongside the exhibition was an inter-school quiz for O-Level students who made an appearance with their respective teachers-in-charge.

Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Among the guests invited to weave through the 72 exhibits dispersed on 4 floors of Cutting Edge 2016, were also representatives from a select few corporates the management tells us. We got to make our rounds just as the teams were excitedly scurrying to get their presentations down to the tee for these VIP guests.

Here are some interesting projects we happened to come across on Day 1 of Cutting Edge 2016.

First Year & Foundation Year Projects.

We started at the bottom. The First-years and foundation level students showcased on the ground floor and this is where our loitering began. There was even background music guiding our wandering courtesy of the inter-campus radio station.

Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Stoically placed in the middle of a room was project Magic Touch. This creation was designed for better “device management” in today’s gadget- dependent world. In plain words, Magic Touch “is a touch sensitive desk” we’re told. One simply plugs in a device and works on this desk without having to open the device itself.  “In Sri Lanka, we don’t have close-range projectors,” the team says, but they managed to produce a neat demo of how the prototype works and it’s potential.

Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Next, up we found team Dream Killers. This all-girl ensemble presented an app for those who aren’t great at make-up but want to be. Simply uploading a ‘Selfie’ to their cleverly christened innovation- O’real, the virtual make-up guru not only detects your skin tone but products and brands you could shop for directly and features tutorials on how to use these products.

IDeal was a nifty backpack for the free spirited wandering souls. Reminiscent of a fully-loaded bag of tricks in a manner of speaking, we got a Mary-Poppin-ish vibe from this innovation. Packed with features like hands-free access to water “for when you might be cycling” and easy access to your phone “it could even be fitted with a GPS system.” Next step for this team is to attach a hands-free umbrella that would sprout from within the bag- think inspector gadget.

Second Year Projects.

It was now time to head upstairs and meet some second years to see what they have on display at Cutting Edge.

Team Green Tech at Cutting Edge had an interesting take on garbage. “We wanted to encourage categorizing garbage,” they say of their mechanism of waste disposal. Residents are able to place their bins on a device which connects to their mobile phones via Bluetooth. To organize the systematic collection, each resident is also equipped with a unique QR code which waste collectors can scan once they’ve done their rounds. This isn’t the team’s first presentation we’re told. They’ve made an appearance at the Imagine Cup as well.

Also at the Imagine Cup in the gaming category was team Eccentric with their game- Split. “Normally” this team explains, gamers don’t need to explore all parts of the game, but that’s not the case with Split. 20 collectible items are hidden in the 3 different environments within the game’s red, green and blue universe. The hand-drawn protagonist can only complete the game once all 20 are collected and has to explore all terrains.

Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Out of the 100 people team, Hummingbird spoke to, “about 75%” wanted more information on their surrounding. For this reason, they thought creating a “Community Event Notifier” was the way to go. AroundMi basically pulls details of events which are to happen around your location so that you could be better involved in the community.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could minimize our electricity consumption? That’s what team Electrifize was thinking as wells. Creating both a mechanism and an application that can closely monitor your electricity usage, we’re told you can be notified before you reach the estimated limit allotted to each household. “We want to educate people” about how Sri Lanka’s electricity is derived and that we’ve got a grid system in place. The application allows you to get phone updates and “you can even control electricity at home via your phone.” It also connects to Facebook, “so you can challenge your friends to use less electricity” or simply budget your own expenses. The team has emerged finalists in their category at the Imagine Cup.

Another refreshing idea we saw at Cutting Edge 2016 was fiendishly simple, yet immensely heartwarming. Team Styx had created an online toy donation platform. “There are around 153 million orphanages” in the world they say. “A lot of people do donate toys to orphanages” but they’re more often hand-me-downs than brand new ones. “We know the happiness of getting a new toy” they smile, and simply made it convenient for others to share that feeling with children in need. Nearing a Birthday, for instance, an orphanage can request a toy of the child’s choice on this platform called “A Toy Story.” Donors can buy the toy online with a vendor also available on the site who will then deliver the toy to the child.

It was around mid-day when we almost ran into a rather jubilant trio of schoolboys. They informed us that they were the winners of the inter-school quiz which had rolled-out earlier that morning. We were promptly met with “St. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia” when we ventured to ask what school they represented.

An interestingly crafted steam-punk meets circuit board-type decoration greeted us at the elevator doors on the fourth floor. When we peeked through the door, this exhibition space was unfortunately too crowded for us to step-in just then.

Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Final Year Projects

Making our way to the floor above, we walked in to the arena of final year projects on display at Cutting Edge.

Sasini Kaluarachchi meets us with her application- EasyTrain. Not only does this let you track a train, it also allows booking tickets and choosing your preferred seat. “You can book a ticket through mobile service providers,” she says, but the already available service is expensive not to mention void of benefits like choosing your own seat. To make the idea of using public transport more appealing this improvement to the local infrastructure also lets you buy “season tickets at any time of the month.” Usually, Season passes are only valid from the 1st of one month to the 1st of the next.

We then see Purni Gunawardana’s rather handy innovation- the AngerKiller. Singling out the side effects of anger among young people she says her application helps a once triggered person not only to calm down but also to break away from the habit of getting fired-up. “You can customize your method of handling anger” and the time you spend on each step is recorded to measure progress. Once the app is initiated the front camera is activated and a quick picture is automatically snapped of your face before you start the process. Once again this involuntary selfie is taken once you’ve entered data to suggest you’ve calmed down. The images are then supplied beside each other for you to compare. “This only works” however, she says “with young people who want to control their anger.”

Charukshi Perera is up next with her creation- Intern Academy. “An internship is a vital part” of education she feels, and for this reason has come up with a system for both employers and interns to improve. The software can not only keep records of skills and their development as the internship progresses but also gives an intern access to a library for material supplied by the employer. “This way,” she says employers can give attention to the interns in areas where they need it and vice versa making the most of the internship.

Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Ridmi Lokumudali’s project reels us in. “I wanted to create an election prediction method uniquely for Sri Lanka” she explains. Thus, The Voter was born. Intrigued by prediction methods in the US and the UK, her system uses data on twitter and sentiment analysis to predict local election outcomes. Obviously, The Voter processes “local tweets-even in Sinhala and Tamil” to churn out the predicted winner.

“Not everyone” is equipped with the same skill set and Surath Jayetileke is well aware of this. Student by day and teacher whenever he’s free he says observing his students has made this even more evident. For this reason, combining his love for teaching, AI, and gaming he’s created a game which assesses the player’s skills in a short demo and customizes the content accordingly. The criteria are measured in a few seconds and then players are fitted into three categories, and game content is adjusted accordingly. “For now,” he says this is a game but it can be expanded into areas like learning. Gaming and AI are merely “the testing ground” for his concept.

Today’s traveler is rather tech-savvy Mahesh De Silva has noticed. Everyone’s curious enough to search online for where to go and what you can do once you there, online. He’s come up with a system that can help called Mithrandir. Based on the attractions in Sri Lanka, Mithrandir gathers all the data processes under certain keywords. Pulling reviews of places and services it allows all the data on a certain tourist attraction floating around the vast extents of the internet to one single location. Instead of scrolling through countless pages, data on Mithrandir is to be a centralized take on popular opinion. “It could work and a plugin,” he says to prominent sites like Trip Advisor or Yamu.

Day 1 of Cutting Edge Comes To An End.

By now the first day had almost come to a close. Dean of IIT, Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe was impressed. “Every year it keeps getting better” he shares, but this year showed exceptional promise. “When you walk in and find 1st years and Foundation level entries” which top notch ideas he feels the caliber of creativity has been superlative. “You also see that they’ve produced integrated work,” he says “they’ve put in not just software, but a few electronics” to make their concepts work.

Cutting Edge 2016
Image credits: Kaveen Rodrigo

Projects were not all that impressed the dean at this years Cutting Edge. “This year I believe we have some students who are interested in making their ideas business ventures.” It’s not as attractive as working in a recognized company, which is an accessible option for all IIT’s students he says. “But the culture is changing” and more entrepreneurs are cropping up among those who choose a corporate life.

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