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Startup Weekend Youth: Lighting a spark of innovation

If you’ve been following us for a while then you probably already know what Startup Weekends are. Back in 2016, Startup Weekend first came to Sri Lanka with Startup Weekend Jaffna. Fast forward to 2018, there have been over 10 of these right here in Sri Lanka. Now, the much-loved series is coming to schools. The very first edition of this was Startup Weekend Youth in Sri Lanka, which was held in Maris Stella, Thimbirigaskatuwa.

Empowering the youth

One might wonder with so many Startup Weekends happening already why there is a need for another segment of Startup Weekends. The main objective of hosting Startup Weekend Youth events is to solely focus on nurturing school kids into embracing innovation and entrepreneurship. The traditional education system offers limited opportunities in this area for students to pursue innovative pathways. Sometimes, it’s not even the education system. Sometimes, it just comes down to access to tools and resources. This is where Startup Weekend Youth aims to fill the gap.Startup Weekend Youth Negombo

The very first of this series of events was held in Negombo at Maris Stella, Thimbirigaskatuwa. Following this will be other Startup Weekend Youth events that will take place in a number of schools around the country.

Lighting the spark of innovation

Kicking things off on Friday, the kids were briefed on how the whole program workings of the program. Here, participants would first pitch their ideas. This is followed by a voting process. Once the best ideas have been picked, the teams are formed. The remainder of the weekend would be where the participants work on these ideas, to build a Minimum Viable Product. At the end of the event, these finalized ideas are pitched in front of a panel of judges.

At Startup Weekend Youth, four teams worked on four different ideas over the weekend. All these ideas incorporated a Micro:bit device which made things a bit more interesting. The participants were well equipped with working around Micro:bit thanks to the workshop by Micro:bit SLUG and Orange IT, which was held earlier in the day.

Startup Weekend Youth in Negombo

Wellington Perera from Microsoft Sri Lanka conducting his session

Saturday kicked off with sessions by Chathura Sooriyaarachchi and Mohammed Fawaz. Chathura offered a glimpse into the world of creative thinking, while Fawaz briefed the participants on lean startups and the lean startup canvas. On Sunday, Amithe Gamage offered his insights from a sales and marketing perspective.

Startup Weekend Youth Negombo

Chevaan Daniel, Group Director at Capital Maharaja speaking to the participants

Meanwhile, the participants were prepping for the final pitches. Here’s how the ideas turned out.

1. Smart electric fence to fend off elephants

The human-elephant conflict is one that has been ongoing for years. Even today, there’s no proper solution for the issue. Team Yaan believes proposed a workaround on the matter. Smart electric fence. How this would work is that sensors would be installed on the electric fences. The sensors would be capable of identifying elephants via body heat. Once an elephant is detected near the fence, a notification would be sent out via SMS. This would act as a warning for the villagers nearby. Additionally, data with regards to elephant sightings and/or any damages done to the fence by the elephants would be captured. The idea is to provide the wildlife authorities to better track these activities

2. Transmitter system for unprotected railways

Our railway system is one that could use a serious upgrade. At the very least there should be a solution for all the unprotected railway crossings out there. Team Snug believes that a smart transmitter could do the trick. Here, a transmitter would be fixed on to the train while a transponder device would be fixed on the vehicles. A signal emitting from the train at a minimum safe distance of 200m would be received by the transponder device. Thus alerting the driver of the vehicle.

3. Backpack Tracker

Team Backpack Master wants to help people keep track of their bag so that they won’t get lost in public transportation. How? By adding a tracker on the bag and a smartphone app that would allow the user to constantly track the whereabouts of the bag. You might think this isn’t really a prevailing problem. But you would be surprised to know how many people actually lose their bags on public transport.

4. Helping the blind navigate

Every now and then we see various solutions proposed to help the blind navigate around with their daily chores. It’s still a problem that needs solving. Team SuperSonic aims to tackle this with a device in the form of a visual aid. This device would include a sensor system that will detect oncoming obstacles and translate them into audio and/or vibrations.

A Snug victory

Following the pitches and feedback from the judging panel, next was crowning the champion. On that note, team Snug emerged victorious at the very first edition of Startup Weekend Youth at Maris Stella College, Thimbirigaskatuwa.

Team Snug | Startup Weekend Youth in Negombo

The winning team Snug

So what’s next? Rumor has it the next edition of Startup Weekend Youth will take place in Zahira College, Maradana. This is to be followed with similar programs at other schools such as D.S. Senanayake College, St. Anthony’s College in Kandy, etc. Either way, you can be sure our team will be there to bring you the latest.

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