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He touched lives as an engineer, inventor and agriculturalist

The Dr Ray Wijewardene Memorial Oration for 2023 will be on Friday, September 8 at the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka (IESL) auditorium at Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 7 at 5.15 p.m.

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Ray Wijewardene pioneered the use of technology in farming

Lakmini Wijesundera, Founder & Executive Director BoardPACInc and IronOne Technologies will deliver this year’s oration on the topic ‘Globalizing Sri Lankan Technology:  The BoardPAC Journey’.  She is the first woman to be invited to deliver this annual oration.

The Dr. Ray Wijewardene Memorial Oration was established in 2011 by the Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust (RWCT) in collaboration with the Institute of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL). Every year the engineering community of Sri Lanka comes together to remember Dr Ray’s invaluable contribution to the world and to acknowledge the decades of innovations around the world. Each year individuals who contributed to the field of innovation take the opportunity to showcase their journey and share their knowledge with peers as well as the public.

The RWCT with the leadership of Dr. Ray’s three daughters Anoma, Roshi and Mandy have organised the annual orations and activities of the Trust over the years keeping his memory alive.

“As a visionary scientist, Dr. Ray Wijewardene touched many lives worldwide throughout his long career as an engineer, inventor, and agriculturalist. Having graduated from two of the greatest Universities in the world – University of Cambridge and Harvard University, he conducted experiments and innovations in many fields including agriculture, aeronautics, and renewable energy that continues to shape the world today,” Lakmini Wijesundera said, adding that “as Dr Ray was a dear uncle of mine, it brings deeply personal relevance and pride to be delivering this most special memorial oration.”

Dr Ray Wijewardene: Man with a vision

In aviation, Dr Ray’s design of the world’s first practical human-powered aircraft, the “Man-powered Aircraft” or MPA, demonstrated the feasibility of human-powered flight and inspired subsequent innovations in aviation technology.

His contributions to agricultural engineering were equally groundbreaking; he developed the world’s first two-wheel tractor, the “Jet Reapers,” revolutionising small-scale farming and significantly increasing agricultural productivity in developing countries from Asia, to Africa and Latin America. Moreover, Dr. Ray’s dedication to sustainable agriculture and conservation led to advancements in agro-forestry and soil conservation techniques, addressing critical global challenges related to food security and environmental sustainability.

Throughout his career, he strongly believed in giving back to the community and training young minds to pass on the legacy of innovation to others. One such initiative he contributed to was the ‘Science for Youth’ programme launched by Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma in the 1980’s, which later became the “Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL)”. He would often collaborate with renowned innovators like his longstanding friend, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, to discuss his vision for the world and Sri Lanka.

Dr Ray’s legacy reminds us that true innovation often thrives outside traditional institutions, and that the spirit of discovery and invention should be nurtured with a focus on solving real-world challenges. His journey encourages today’s engineers and innovators to boldly pursue their ideas, collaborate widely, and embrace failure as a stepping stone to success, a press release from the RWCT states.

Wth one of his home-built helicopters

Lakmini Wijesundera studied at CMS Ladies College in Colombo. Her higher education in Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at University College London and Imperial College London, University of London, UK, was a foundation and introduction to the possibilities of groundbreaking innovation in technology. Embarking on her entrepreneurial journey in the tech industry, she draws parallels between her passion and what must have compelled Dr Ray.

Her spirit of innovation gave rise to BoardPAC that is ranked as one of the best global Board Governance technology platforms by Capterra of Gartner Inc., the leading global technology advisory firm. BoardPAC bridges a longstanding gap that had persisted in boardrooms for decades. Lakmini envisioned an all-encompassing platform capable of digitizing and automating the entire board meeting and board governance process and further elevating the experience of Boards with relevant insights to important subjects such as Sustainability (ESG and Carbon Neutrality) with the use of cutting edge technologies of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

BoardPAC’s clientele includes Forbes, Fortune ranked and publicly listed top ranking companies and governmental bodies in over 40 countries – the USA, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Middle East and India. This remarkable growth, against all odds, was aided by a vision and belief that a Sri Lankan built technology company could ascend to the same heights as its global counterparts.

This year’s oration will elaborate Lakmini’s journey with BoardPAC, as an inspiration to many others to embrace the possibility for Sri Lankan businesses boldly presenting their products to the world and taking the challenge to be among the top ranked offerings globally. Testament to the enduring legacy of inspiration that Dr Ray Wijewardene left behind.

The oration is open to the public. Those interested can register through https://iesl.lk/mis/Member_event/event_registration_non_member/905

 

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