The Official E-Newsletter of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka   |  Issue 51 - February 2021

Innovative Solutions to National Industries – IESL JIY/ UIY team visits Valaichchenai Paper Mill


Previous JIY/UIY competitions were held requesting students to come up with innovative solutions for problems we face in our day-to-day life. From this year onwards, JIY Committee has launched new a project to explore the real problems in industries and convey those issues to junior and undergraduate inventors to give innovative solutions.

As the first industry in this series of activities, the organizing committee has chosen Valaichchenai Paper Mill. The mill has not been properly maintained for a couple of decades. Therefore, the machinery used in the factory is outdated. As a solution to this issue, JIY/UIY team has initiated a mechanism where students come up with innovative solutions to overcome these mechanical difficulties. In this regard, the team has developed a series of videos on various types of machinery used in the factory and these will be available to view on JIY/UIY Facebook page and IESL website.

A team of IESL members visited the Valaichchenai Paper Mill on 28th December 2020 to examine the existing machines.

The Electrical, Electronic, and Telecommunication Engineering Sectional Committee of the IESL played a leading role in this endeavor. Especially the enthusiastic cooperation of the chairman of the Sectional Committee, Eng. M R Ranatunga was an encouragement for the organizing team. Future visits to other important industrial visits will also be organized jointly with the Electrical, Electronic, and Telecommunication Engineering Sectional Committee of the IESL. Staff members and few students of South Eastern University also participated in this visit.

Students are able to observe the problems and issues of these by thoroughly examining the videos. Then they can come up with innovative solutions for problems they identify.

Other important industries will be covered in the same manner in the future and students can study these online.

History and development of Valaichchenai Paper Mill

Valaichchenai paper mill was established in 1955 with a total investment of about 32 million rupees and it was commissioned for commercial operation in 1956. In 1958 it was renamed Eastern Paper Mills Corporation. At that time this paper mill was considered the biggest factory in the Eastern province, especially in the Batticaloa district. In the period of 1970s, the mill had around 3,000 employees. In 1976 it became state-owned and then ran as a state venture. With the expansion program, carried out by the funds generated from the Valaichchennai, a second paper mill was established at Embilipitiya in 1976. These two State corporations satisfied 70% of the total paper demand of the country. The name of the Eastern Paper Mills Corporation was subsequently changed to the National Paper Corporation (NPL).

With the escalation of the terrorism in the country during the 1990s in the Eastern province, the government implemented new changes in the market policies concerning the import of paper. That directly caused industrial difficulties for the Paper Corporation and also resulted in the lowering of production levels at the paper mill drastically in the latter part of the 1990s. It was then largely converted into a waste paper recycling center with a newly established network of collecting sub-centers. With the time going, production operations at the paper mill were disrupted gradually with the reasons of a bad financial situation and lack of experienced staff.

At the present, the paper mill does a limited number of functions. Since the gradual decrement of the production and the damage caused during the period of ethinic issue the machines used at the mill are old and refurbished ones.

Junior Inventor of the Year (JIY)

Pioneered by the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka in 1980, the Junior Inventor of the Year (JIY) competition promotes creativity and ingenuity among school children.

Children in the age group 12 to 19 years from schools all over Sri Lanka participate, initially in preliminary competitions held at the provincial level, and proceed to the final JIY competition held at the IESL Headquarters in Colombo.

The top ten inventions at this competition together with the ten finalists of the Science Research Project Competition of the NSF then compete at the Sri Lanka Science and Engineering Fair (SLSEF), held under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, and Sri Lanka branch of the Intel Corporation, USA.

Winners at the SLSEF have the opportunity to be selected to proceed to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in US in May of each year.

Since the first batch of students selected through the JIY competitions participated in the Intel ISEF- 2008, eight JIY Winners have succeeded in winning awards at the Intel ISEF and done their respective schools, the IESL and Sri Lanka proud.

Topping it all, one of them had the rare distinction of an extrasolar planet being named after him in recognition.

Applications for participation in the JIY competitions are usually called around April of each year and preliminary rounds are worked out in the provinces during May, June and July. Awareness creation sessions conducted by the IESL precede the competitions. Those selected at the preliminary competitions get to participate in the final competition held in August.

JIY finalists are facilitated to display their inventions at the JIY Stall at the annual flagship event of the IESL, the Techno, Sri Lanka Exhibition held in October.

Gold, Silver and Bronze medals together with certificates and cash rewards to those placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the completion are awarded at the Inauguration of the Annual Sessions of the IESL in October.

Under Graduate Inventor of the Year (UIY)

It’s said that necessity is the mother of all inventions. To fulfill those necessities, scientists try to understand how nature works, to manipulate it. Engineers create or invent things that could do it.

The Under Graduate Inventor of the Year (UIY) competition was established by the IESL to encourage and stimulate creativity and interest in inventions among engineering undergraduates in the country and provide opportunities for engineering undergraduates to organize and present their original inventions. It’s also a forum for networking within Sri Lanka engineering undergraduate students as well as members of industry and academia.

The competition tries to inculcate basic principles for success in innovations such as having a stated goal, develop design criteria, background research, prepare preliminary designs and materials list, consider costs, manufacturing and user requirement, building and testing prototypes, consider reliability, repair and servicing, final product testing, presentation of results etc.

Applications to take part in the competition are called usually in May / June and preliminary selections made in the respective universities before the final competition is held at the IESL on a date in consultation with the Deans of Faculties of Engineering of universities before October. Top inventions get an opportunity to be displayed at the Techno Sri Lanka exhibition and awards presented for the best inventions at the inauguration ceremony of the Annual Sessions / Techno Sri Lanka Awards Ceremony.

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