ESCaPe’2021, Engineering Students Conference at Peradeniya, in line with the theme of “Empowered with AI” organized by the Department of Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya was held for the sixth time on 24th July 2021 as an online project symposium of final year undergraduates. The symposium was commenced by the Head of the Department of Computer Engineering at the University of Peradeniya, Dr Kamalanath Samarakoon.
During the welcome speech, he highlighted that the computer engineering undergraduates of the department are not just programmers but they have a deep understanding of the entire computer system; from software to hardware. It was followed by the speech of Prof. Gemunu Herath, Dean of Faculty of Engineering. He stated that this year’s symposium would add great value to the domains related to the COVID 19 pandemic since today’s world is focusing more on online systems to run facilities.
Prof. Upul B. Dissanayake, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya also held a speech and he mentioned that research is the link between academia and the industry. He also mentioned that the collaboration among those institutes is mutually beneficial for both parties leading to the sustainability of collaborative programs. And it has a clear potential to make a significant contribution to the quality of higher education.
The symposium consisted of two keynote speeches, student presentations, a panel discussion with industry experts, a lightning talk session followed by a Q&A session. Afterwards, there was an alumni interaction session before concluding with the awards ceremony. The first session also featured a keynote speech by Founder & MD of Veracity AI, Jeevan Gnanam.
The research projects of the students were presented on two main tracks as parallel sessions namely “Accelerated AI” and “ Data-Driven AI”. Each track consisted of presentations on six projects focused on developing intelligent solutions to several key issues.
One example was a low-powered handheld device for DNA sequencing. This was developed by a group of students – Suneth Samarasinghe, Pubudu Premathilaka, and Wishma Herath working with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney. The development of this device allows DNA sequencing to be done in the field itself without the need for transferring samples to a laboratory.
The start of the second session began with a keynote by the CEO of Axiata Digital Labs, Thushera Kawdawatta on the topic of How we can use AI technologies in a Business Context. Following the keynote was a panel discussion exploring the future of AI, which was moderated by Senior Lecturer of the Department of Computer Engineering at the University of Peradeniya, Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwa. Alongside the keynote speakers Jeevan and Thushera, the panel included Chief Digital Economy Officer of the ICTA, Anura de Alwis, CEO of SenzAgro, Miller Rajendran, and Co-Founder & CTO of Tengri UAV, Dr. Romesh Ranawana.
The discussion primarily focused on how Sri Lanka could develop its economy by embracing AI. It also touched on common issues faced by Sri Lankan data scientists and AI engineers, such as a lack of experience and a lack of knowledge to convert research into products. The discussions also explored potential policies and regulations that can be implemented to improve the local AI ecosystem.
The lightning talks session, which took place after saw students presenting their research findings in three minutes. Following this, an alumni interaction session took place and awards were handed out. The award for Best Research Article was won by a team led by Keshara Weerasinhge for their work on Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy for Vein Visualization The Mixed Reality Environment for Swarm Robotics Simulations was awarded as the Best Research Presentation done by Nuwan Jaliyagoda and his team. Objectively Measure Player Performance on Olympic Weightlifting was awarded as the Best Lightning Talk done by Anandi Karunaratne and her team.
The event was concluded by the vote of thanks delivered by the secretary of the Association of Computer Engineering Students. For more information please refer to the proceedings of ESCaPe 2021 and the publication website.