Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

‘MY HELPAIM IS TO PEOPLE’

- 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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