S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia saw the birth of the first Innovation Club in schools
when the company 3M, came on board and introduced ‘Innovation thinking’ and
became a partner in this new endeavour last year (2013). Through their introduction, a
team from college entered the ‘Innovation’competition organised by the Conrad
Foundation, namely: ‘Spirit of Innovation Challnge’. The Conrad Foundation,
formed by Mr. Pete Conrad, (commander ofApollo 12 and the third man to walk on the
moon), organises this event every year andhosts the finalists for an Innovation summit.
The team, made up of two students in the2nd year of their Advanced Levels, made it through
the preliminaries and the semi-finals and qualified in the Finals as one of the top five teams
in their category (‘Cyber Technology and Security’). This is a great honour for S. Thomas’
and the nation, as they were the only team to make it this far in the whole of South East Asia.
Their innovation is based on a mobile device which
would greatly assist those with speech or hearing disability, and give them the ability to
Vinoth Krishan (Team Leader) and his friend and team mate Afzal Fasehudeen (Project Manager)
had come up with the idea after noticing a differently-abled individual trying to communicate with a
shop assistant. Having looked around for a solution, they came up with the idea to link a
communication device with the Android platform, allowing the user ease of use to communicate in
sign language. The device translates sign language to speech.
The team travelled to the Houston Space Centre early April 2014, where they were expected to
present their findings and their idea in a public presentation and in front of a panel of judges,
comprised of leaders in their respective fields and heads of companies etc.
The judging was a two-stage process. First was a sales pitch which was streamed live across the
world. Here the students were required to develop a presentation and catch the attention of the
audience in under 7 minutes. The next stage was a private session with the judges in which the
students were expected to go into greater detail about their business plan, with cost analysis, 5 year
plan etc… followed by 10 minutes of “Q & A”.
Nervous but resolved, the students took to the stage and made the presentation to both audiences
very well. Some of the judges thought the idea very innovative and showed great interest when it
came to the private judging sessions. They were keen that the team go ahead with their plan to bring
the device up to ‘market standard’ and said that they believed this product to have much potential.
Though denied victory in the competition, this certainly was a victory for Vinoth and Afzal. Having
placed Sri Lanka and S. Thomas’ on the map as innovators, they were able to make their childhood
dream come true. For both of them, there was no greater glory than to have travelled to NASA and
to have been photographed with real-life astronauts. The students were exposed to other young
innovators, and their products and concepts. They had the opportunity to sit in the observation
gallery of the control centre used to send man into space and beyond.
“It felt like a dream”, said Vinoth. “We never expected we’d get this opportunity”. “Returning from
NASA, it feels as if we have indeed travelled to the moon ourselves”, said Afzal. The team was
very keen to introduce the competition for 2014 / 2015 and to encourage young Thomian innovators
to take up the challenge that may well see them travel to NASA and be awarded the Champion’s
In addition to their Master-in-charge, the team owes a very special thanks to the Warden and Sub
Warden of S. Thomas’ and the team from 3M, who supported their endeavour with words of
encouragement and help with their presentation.
Master in Charge STC Innovation Club and Boarding House Master
De Saram House
STC 1991 – 2005