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IET Young Professionals Sri Lanka Network

The members of the IET Young Professionals Sri Lanka Network (YP SLN) work together seamlessly, delivering multiple events to the country’s engineering community each year.

In 2021 they won the IET Core Values Award (CVA) for Teamwork.

The IET YP SLN was formed in 1995 and has 28 committee members: 16 YPs and 12 On-Campus representatives from six universities.

Its Chair is Thilini Wasundara, whose volunteer journey started with the IET On Campus initiative in 2015 when she was a student at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.

The members meet up every month to recap on progress made and to plan their activities and communications.

Unable to get together in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, they switched effortlessly to using online platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, as well as communicating via their email and WhatsApp groups.

Their discussions, events and activities are always guided by the following objectives:

  • recruit and retain YPs for the IET
  • engage YPs and increase the number and quality of initiatives that the YP SLN delivers
  • encourage sharing of knowledge and best practice in various fields of engineering
  • raise awareness of YPs throughout the IET and the wider engineering community
  • organise and drive the delivery of key YP-led competitions and initiatives.

Despite the unprecedented challenges arising during the pandemic, the members of the YP SLN team succeeded in organising many online engineering events.

They excelled at promoting them on social media, through On-Campus groups, and on their personal networks, and often attracted sizeable audiences as a result.

All events were meticulously planned and generated a wealth of positive attendee feedback.

Encouraging engineering research and innovation

In March 2021, the YP SLN team launched Sri Lanka’s first-ever competition targeting innovative waste-management solutions.

“Solid waste is a huge problem in Sri Lanka,” said Thilini. “As YPs, we wanted to do something to help address this, so we were delighted that the IET Volunteer Engagement Board agreed to fund our competition as part of its IET@150 celebrations.

We formed a dedicated organising committee of 15 volunteers and used a range of communications channels to promote the competition.

“We received 20 group entries in total and put them all through to the preliminary round in August when they presented their initial idea to the judges in online breakout rooms.

The top five entrants were selected and are now busy developing their innovation. They will deliver a detailed presentation to a judging panel at the Grand Final in December.”

A dedicated team of 12 volunteers also organised the annual IET YP SLN Technical Conference, which took place in mid-August 2021 and attracted 12 delegates.

“We were wholly responsible for planning the event and welcomed research papers from all engineering disciplines,” said Thilini.

“The conference again provided a fantastic platform for engineering undergraduates and YPs to showcase their engineering research to a distinguished audience of university lecturers and senior engineers from industry.

This year we received research papers from many universities in Sri Lanka, which somehow gave this online event a more glamorous feel!”

In summer 2021 the YP members helped their IET On Campus counterparts to run an online Inter-University Hack, which aimed to test and improve undergraduates’ hackathon skills.

They organised a one-hour workshop to help the students gear up for the main event, which took place in July.

Sharing technical and industry knowledge

The popularity of the YP SLN’s e-talks programme for undergraduates and YPs grew considerably during the pandemic, attracting online audiences of up to 50.

These engaging one-hour engineering webinars are delivered by speakers from industry and academia who share technical knowledge and industry updates.

They cover a broad range of engineering topics – recent e-talks include:

  • Thermal Imaging
  • Victorian Rail Signalling
  • LiDAR Sensors in Robotic Applications
  • The Maker Movement: Democratising IR 4.0
  • A Practical Approach to Project Management for Engineers.

Thilini said: “All members of the YP SLN Committee get involved in organising the e-talks and we allocate the tasks according to people’s skills set. We also receive support from On-Campus groups and engineering societies.” 

Celebrating young women engineers

On International Women’s Day (8 March), the YP SLN launched Sri Lanka’s 2021 IET Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year Awards.

Laura Gil, IET YP Committee Chair, delivered a virtual keynote speech during the launch from her base in Switzerland.

The YP SLN’s 10-strong YWE organising committee ensured that the preliminary interviews ran like clockwork in September.

The top five entrants have been invited to attend the Grand Final in December when Sri Lanka’s 2021 YWE winner will be announced.

Thilini said: “We want to encourage and inspire more women in Sri Lanka to engage in the fields of engineering and technology, which are both very male-dominated.

Our YWE Awards competition will help us achieve this objective by raising awareness of the role played by women in engineering and by celebrating the very best early-career female engineers working in Sri Lanka today.”

Reeling in their own award win

The members of the YP SLN were delighted to learn that they had won the 2021 Core Values Award for Teamwork.

“It feels good to be recognised and appreciated for influencing Sri Lanka’s engineering community to help meet the needs of society,” said Thilini.

When asked to describe what great teamwork looks like, she said: “An Olympic rowing team – all the members have to keep pulling in the same direction until the boat crosses the finish line.

In the YP SLN we all work together, trust each other and depend on each other. We achieve our team goals through dedication and mutual support. ur next project will be to introduce an On-Campus recognition programme in Sri Lanka.”

Summing up why she’s such a committed IET volunteer, Thilini said:

“Whenever I volunteer for the IET, I always have the enthusiasm and energy to do more and more. The IET is the best platform I have ever come across in my life – as an IET volunteer, I can act as a force for good in the engineering community.”

The winning Team members were Priyanga Ambanwala, T. M. Kamal Warna Dayananda, Nimantha Madhushan, L. M. D. Prabhashwari, Thilina Rajapaksha, Thotagamuwage Sajani,

Dulan Shanaka Saputhanthri, Amila Prasanna Saputhanthri and Thilini Wasundara.

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