University of Moratuwa EXMO: Budding geniuses | Daily News

University of Moratuwa EXMO: Budding geniuses

 Students at the University of Moratuwa hosted their second EXMO event last Friday and Saturday to show the public what they have been working on during the year.

The event was open to the public, and thousands flocked to the campus to see graduating students’ final projects and a number of exhibitions. The students also hosted classes and seminars to teach the masses some engineering basics. The Daily News visited the University on Friday and interviewed a number of students who had created some very impressive technologies.

Lakmal Meegahapola and his team won the 2nd place at the 2016 Microsoft Imagine World Cup Finals in Seattle, USA for an innovative system, named Amplus, that allows advertisers to better target products at people.

“Normally digital billboards are not interconnected, which makes it difficult for advertisers to efficiently advertise their products. What we have done is to connect a camera to billboards that can identify men and women in the crowds in front of the billboard,” Meegahapola said. The camera is linked with a database of ads, and, if the system determines there are more women than men in front of the billboard, it will display an advertisement targeting women.

Though Meegahapola did not mention the further applications of this technology, it stands to reason that the technology could be refined further in order to target different subgroups of people, such as children and the elderly, or even different races.

Prototype racecar

“We are working to create partnerships with investors and some companies to expand the product. We are also trying to patent some of the features in Sri Lanka,” he said.Last year, Team Shark, a group students from the University, built a prototype racecar to compete in the Formula Student 2016 competition at Silverstone Circuit in the United Kingdom.

To say they did well is an understatement. After competing against 134 teams from 34 different countries, the group won three awards: best newcomer in class 1, best individual driver, and the dedication to Formula Student prize. Induwara Munasinghe, the car’s driver, also helped design and build the racecar, and noted that it was completely designed by the students. Students built most of the car’s components, but they did use a 600cc Honda racing motorcycle engine.

“Except for the engine and wheels and tires, we designed and built the whole thing. We made the chassis and suspension arms, and we did all of the welding,” said Munasinghe, who also noted that the car could reach speeds just north of 200 km per hour. Though the team was excited to do so well during its maiden voyage on the Formula Student circuit, it is not resting on its laurels.

“We are currently building a completely new car for the 2017 event. I can say that it’s way better. It’s lighter, smaller, and more powerful. It’s really a beast,” Munasinghe gleefully noted.The team is setting its sights higher for this year’s competition, going so far as to import chromium alloy steel from the United States, as well as a lighter and stronger engine.

Prosthetic limbs

“We want to do even better this year.” Prosthetic limbs have come a long way in recent years, and Kalinga Nisal and his team. They are looking to further revolutionise these life-altering technologies. They have succeeded in creating a prosthetic device that responds to the EMG signals from muscles and the EEG signals from the brain.

Ship problems detector

The device they have designed is for transhumeral amputees, or patients whose arms have been severed between the shoulder and elbow.“In the case of transhumeral amputations, the muscles of the lower arm are not present, so controlling the prosthetic device only with EMG signals is not possible. So, to overcome that issue, we are using EEG brain signals to control the hand itself while the EMG muscle signals control the elbow joint,” Nisal said.

The LED lights on the prosthesis stimulate the brain’s visual cortex, an EEG headset captures the reaction, and then the patient can control the arm. The elbow’s motion is easily controlled with the EMG signals.“A patient can use the prosthetic limb after only around 5-10 minutes of training,” Nisal said.

Though the prosthesis already works nicely, the team anticipates making further improvements, such as the addition of tactile sensors on the prosthesis’ fingertips.“We should be able to put it on the market in the near future. It will be a popular item since it is cheaper than most available prostheses. We use 3D printing and special CNC machine techniques to create materials that are durable and inexpensive. It’s also powered by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery,” he said.

A persistent problem container ship owners and operators have is how to efficiently and effectively inspect the hulls of their vessels. The team of Volanka Stepson, Nipuna Fernando, and Indika Madusha, has created a robot that they hope will help solve this issue.Their robot clamps onto dry-docked ship hulls with magnetic wheels and can fully examine the ships and then recommend what maintenance should be carried out.

“The current methods of ship inspection involve having one or many individuals scouring the hulls while standing on a scaffolding or on cranes. These are costly and inefficient, and we hope our robot can change the way inspections are conducted,” Stepson said.As of now, there is a camera mounted in the robot’s front section that can connect to phones and computers. But the team hopes to develop instruments that can measure the thickness of hulls to see whether there is corrosion. They also want to design painting and grinding mechanisms on the robot that will allow it to not only inspect but also repair ships.

The team tested the robot in the Colombo dockyard on April 27. The robot performed well, they said, as it was able to crawl horizontally and vertically. It successfully navigated while upside down.Though designed for ships, the prototype can crawl on anything made with ferromagnetic materials, such as steel.

Stepson noted that the materials used to assemble the robot cost about Rs. 180,000.The idea of wireless power transmission for electronic devices has been a rich area of research for electrical engineers for a few years now, and the fruits of these explorations have begun to trickle into the marketplace. You can now buy a device that charges your phone without a chord; you simply place it on top of a charging plate.

Ayesha Viduranga and his team designed a wireless power transmission that can transfer energy to more than one device. It has the capacity to charge computers and phones at the same time.Kavindu Dharmasiri and his team are trying to apply this technology to implantable medical devices. Either implantable batteries or hard conductors power most of these implants. The former must be surgically replaced, and the latter increase the risk of infection.

Wireless power transmission system

“By using wireless power transmission, we have found that you can recharge implanted devices while they remain in people’s bodies. This would allow people to avoid having repeated surgeries to replace batteries,” Dharmasiri said.

He explained that the implants could be charged simply by placing wireless power transmission systems above them on the skin.

Dharmasiri demonstrated this by holding a transmission system and an implant device on opposite sides of a piece of pig skin. Sure enough, the implant showed that it was charging.Nilesh Suriyarachchi and his team developed an autonomous robot that can map, in 2D and 3D, its surrounding environment. While the applications for such a technology are vast and varied, Suriyarachchi designed the robot with the retail sector in mind.

“A big problem retailers have is identifying where items in a store are. People often pick up t-shirts and then leave them somewhere else, and to remedy this problem, retailers need to have a big workforce who have to go around and check the inventory manually. We want to fully automate this system,” he said.The robot can go through the store, mapping the floor the whole time, and quantify the inventory while also identifying pieces that are out of place. Furthermore, people need not control it, as it can navigate on its own using an Xbox Kinect system.

“The robot also has an obstacle avoidance mechanism so that it can avoid people that might get in its way,” he said.

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