‘MY HELPAIM IS TO PEO­PLE’

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES - By Shi­hara Maduwage

Ray Award 2015 Fi­nal­ist – Chandima Al­wis NEARLYTHREE DECADESAGO WINGCOMMANDER CHANDIMAALWIS METAPERSONALITY WHOINSPIREDHIM ANDCHANGEDTHE COURSE OF HIS LIFE. ASASTUDENTOF RICHMONDCOLLEGE, GALLE, AND HAV­ING OB­TAINED EX­CEL­LENT RE­SULTS AT HIS OR­DI­NARY LEVEL EX­AM­I­NA­TION, AL­WIS WASSELECTEDFORA PROGRAMMECALLED SCIENCEFORYOUTH IN 1987.

Here, he was in­tro­duced to the world of science and in­ven­tion by worl­drenowned sci­en­tist Dr. Arthur C. Clarke. Amongst them was some­one who grabbed young Al­wis’ at­ten­tion. It was none other than the leg­endary vi­sion­ary and the Fa­ther of In­no­va­tion and In­ven­tion Dr. Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene.

Philip Re­vatha (Ray) Wi­je­w­ar­dene, ed­u­cated at two of the most pres­ti­gious univer­si­ties in the world, Cam­bridge and Har­vard, ex­celled in many dif­fer­ent ar­eas of science, in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, avi­a­tion, en­gi­neer­ing de­sign, in­ven­tion and re­new­able energy tech­nolo­gies to name a few.

With a deep in­ter­est for all things me­chan­i­cal, Dr. Ray stud­ied and ex­per­i­mented, es­pe­cially with agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery and air­planes.

These twin pas­sions took him a long way. He was fond of say­ing, “Agri­cul­ture is my bread and but­ter, while avi­a­tion is the jam on top of it”.

He is cred­ited with in­vent­ing the world’s first two-wheeled hand trac­tor the Land Master to help small farm­ers as well.

He ded­i­cated his life to re­search­ing and pro­mot­ing eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, and later, re­new­able energy tech­nolo­gies. As a sea­soned pi­lot and an avi­a­tor, he built sev­eral ul­tra-light air­craft and he­li­copters, and trained a gen­er­a­tion of pilots and air­craft tech­ni­cians.

In or­der to hon­our one of the great­est cat­a­lysts and in­ven­tors Sri Lanka had ever seen, the Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene Char­i­ta­ble Trust (RWCT) was es­tab­lished in early 2011 to pro­mote Dr. Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene’s vi­sion and ideas in Sri Lanka and to help up­com­ing cre­ators.

Inspired to in­vent

Tak­ing a walk down mem­ory lane,Al­wis re­called his first in­ter­ac­tion with his hero.

“Meet­ing Dr. Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene dur­ing that time seems like a dream now. He not only lec­tured us but he also showed us sev­eral of his in­ven­tions such as the Land Master,” he said.

“One of the things that truly fas­ci­nated me was the air­craft he had built. He took us to the Rat­malana air­port and demon­strated how they worked. I was amazed to see his mo­tor­cy­cle-en­gine-pow­ered air­plane and some­what ner­vous too as I could not imag­ine how such an air­craft could fly so high. It was the first time I had seen some­thing like that. He be­came my hero and role model as he showed me a des­tiny in the avi­a­tion field which I had not seen be­fore,” he rem­i­nisced.

As fate would have it, to­day he is one of the fi­nal­ists for the Ray Award 2015, an ac­co­lade set up to hon­our Al­wis’ hero and to recog­nise out­stand­ing in­ven­tions. His cre­ation – the Cold Air Re­tainer Door Screen Sys­tem for Re­frig­er­a­tors and Bot­tle Cool­ers – was se­lected to be among the four best in­no­va­tions of the coun­try.

“It is truly an hon­our to be nom­i­nated for this award be­cause it is an award given in Dr. Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene’s name. I owe it to him for show­ing me this path,” he said emo­tion­ally.

Al­wis is con­vinced that it was that first en­counter with Dr. Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene which inspired him to join the Air Force and also ig­nited his pas­sion for science, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

“My dream was to be­come an engi­neer but I could not get into the univer­sity. Soon af­ter school I joined theAir Force. By that time I ex­celled in elec­tron­ics and mo­tor mech­a­nism and had a ba­sic knowl­edge and hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in the field,” he said.

Not long af­ter,Al­wis be­came a qual­i­fied

Mr. Al­wis’s visit to Rat­malana Air­port with Dr. Ray Wi­jey­war­dene on 07 Nov1987 Flight Engi­neer in MI-17 he­li­copters. He flew planes in some of the most war-torn ar­eas at the time such as Jaffna, Ele­phant Pass and Mul­laithivu.

Even dur­ing his time at theAir Force, he found new cre­ative ways to solve prob­lems that they came across. One time, he man­aged to re­pair both en­gines, elec­tri­cal sys­tems and to re­place main ro­tor blades of a MI-17 he­li­copter at the Vet­tri­laik­erny beach dur­ing an air op­er­a­tion.

It was a task that was deemed im­pos­si­ble with­out a crane and re­quired ground sup­port fa­cil­i­ties, but Wing Com­man­der Al­wis found a way to get the he­li­copter back on its ro­tors by in­no­va­tively util­is­ing avail­able army per­son­nel to a build an ac­cess ramp with sand bags which fa­cil­i­tated them to ac­cess ro­tor blade re­place­ment.

He then got the op­por­tu­nity to be ap­pointed as the Of­fi­cer in Charge Re­search and De­vel­op­ment, Of­fi­cer in Charge of hard­ware of the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Unit, Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing Main­te­nance of the No 111 Searcher MK-II UAV Squadron, Qual­ity As­sur­ance In­spec­tor of Fixed and Ro­tor Wing air­craft, Staff Of­fi­cer to the Direc­torAero­nau­ti­cal En­gi­neer­ing, Di­rect­ing Staff at The De­fence Ser­vices Com­mand and Staff Col­lege and presently as Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing Air­craft Re­pair and Sal­vage Sec­tion of theAir­craft En­gi­neer­ing Wing of the SLAF Base, Katu­nayake.

Af­ter the war, he com­pleted his Bach­e­lor’s De­gree in De­fence Stud­ies in Man­age­ment at the Sir John Kotelawala De­fence Univer­sity and the Staff Course at the De­fence Ser­vices Com­mand and Staff Col­lege Sa­pu­gaskanda, where he com­pleted his Mas­ters in De­fence Stud­ies con­ferred by the Univer­sity of Ke­laniya.

An energy-sav­ing cre­ation

It was his re­search for his Bach­e­lors and Master’s Pro­grammes, based on energy sav­ing, which led to his in­no­va­tion.

Al­wis ex­plained that the Re­frig­er­a­tor Cool Door Re­tainer was a sim­ple and user-friendly so­lu­tion to stop energy wastage from hav­ing the re­frig­er­a­tor door open for a long pe­riod of time.

“I had no­ticed that in most house­holds, peo­ple kept the door of the fridge open for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time. Some­times they are think­ing about what they need; some­times they open the door sev­eral times while cook­ing. My own kids used to keep the door of the fridge open for a long time. This means that the cool air is leav­ing the re­frig­er­a­tor and the in­side of the fridge is warm­ing up. This wastes 40 per­cent more energy,” he ex­plained.

He ex­plained that the re­frig­er­a­tor amounts to more than half of our energy us­age. In or­der to re­duce the energy wastage from hav­ing the door open, he in­vented thick plas­tic screens that could cover the shelves of the fridge so that the in­side of the fridge was not ex­posed to the at­mos­phere even when the door was open.

“This saves at least 7 – 10 units of elec­tric­ity. That is a 15 per­cent sav­ing of energy. When I first tried this at home in 2009, my elec­tric­ity bill was re­duced by 8 kWh per month. Now I have de­vel­oped it so more money and energy can be saved,” Al­wis said.

“It is safe and clean be­cause the food in the fridge is not af­fected by the out­side tem­per­a­ture for sev­eral min­utes. This helps to main­tain the op­ti­mum level of safe tem­per­a­ture of the fridge for a longer pe­ri­ods of time so that the food is kept cool and fresh even when the door is open,” he added.

Al­wis’ sim­ple, prac­ti­cal and cost­ef­fec­tive in­ven­tion got him his first patent – a dream come true – as well as a Pres­i­den­tial Award.

How­ever, Al­wis has not taken his in­ven­tion to the mass mar­ket yet. He cited the lack of time as the main rea­son for this.

“I am an in­ven­tor; I am a per­son who makes ideas into some­thing use­ful. The main aim of my in­ven­tion is to help peo­ple, with a cost ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion, for a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem,” he said. THE REFREFRIGERATOR COOL DODOOR RE­TAINER Thick plas­tic screens that can cover the shelves of the fridge so that the in­side of the fridge is not ex­posed to the at­mos­phere even when the door is open. The Re­frig­er­a­tor Cool Door Re­tainer was a sim­ple and user-friendly so­lu­tion to stop energy wastage from hav­ing the re­frig­er­a­tor door open for a long pe­riod

of time. Energy Sav­ing

7 – 10 units

15% It is safe and clean be­cause the food in the fridge is not af­fected by the out­side tem­per­a­ture for sev­eral min­utes. The Ray For­ward 2015, or­gan­ised by the Ray Wi­je­w­ar­dene Char­i­ta­ble Trust, will be held on Au­gust 24 at the

Bal­moral, Kings­bury.

He ded­i­cated his life to re­search­ing and pro­mot­ing eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture...later, re­new­able energy tech­nolo­gies. As avi­a­tor, he built sev­eral ul­tra-light air­craft... In most house­holds, peo­ple keep the door of the fridge open for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time...think­ing about what they need... I am an in­ven­tor; I am a per­son who makes ideas into some­thing use­ful. The main aim of my in­ven­tion is to help peo­ple, with a cost ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion, for a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem...

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