2019-12-12: Bhanuka Mahanama (Computer Science PhD Student)

My name is Bhanuka Mahanama, I joined Old Dominion University as a Ph.D. student in fall 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Sampath Jayarathna. I'm currently researching audio, visual, and eye-tracking integration in classroom environments. My research interests include multi-sensory environments, information retrieval, and machine learning.

University of Moratuwa
I received my bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka in 2018. I followed the ICE (Integrated Computer Engineering) stream with courses in embedded and industrial computer engineering systems. I also have an advanced diploma in management accounting from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) in the UK. I was a visiting instructor for computer networks at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. These lab sessions ranged from setting up a basic network with routers to configuring multi-area OSPF environments using CISCO routers and CISCO packet tracer. Soon after my undergraduate degree, I was appointed as a junior consultant at the University of Moratuwa for coordinating practical course components of Computer Communications, Computer Networks, and Industrial Computer Engineering modules. I was responsible for designing a practical lab series for the Industrial Computer Engineering module, working with programmable logic controllers and industrial environments.

I started my professional career (June, 2017 - December, 2017) as a trainee software engineer at Wavenet International (Pvt) Ltd in Sri Lanka and got promoted to an associate software engineer after the completion of the training program (January, 2018 - July, 2018). At Wavenet, I worked mainly on building highly available software solutions for telecommunication using Erlang and MySQL, including optimizing systems to improve the throughput of code-level changes,  database optimizations, and deployment. Later, I started working as a freelance software engineer serving local and foreign clients and building software application solutions.

I'm proficient in coding Java, C++, Javascript, Erlang, Typescript, Python and PHP, and have experience in frameworks such as Spring, AngularJS, Yaws, Erlang OTP, Cordova, Ionic, Scikit, Symfony, Laravel, databases such as MySQL (InnoDB and NDB cluster), MongoDB, Redis, SQLite, and Neo4J.

At ODU, I worked on a game-play interface to replace mouse interactions using eye-tracking technology.
Figure 2: Eye Tracking Game Play Interface
Using this interface users will be able to play conventional games through gaze interactions. The interface is designed to be independent of the game environment allowing the application to be applicable in a variety of games ranging from flash games to multiplayer shooting games. The project leverages the hardware and software API of pupil labs trackers for detecting the eye movements, gaze information and fixation information. The developed environment retrieves data from the pupil labs software through the ZMQ message broker. The application acts as the bridge between the pupil labs software and the gaming environment translating the sensory data from pupil labs to user inputs emulating a mouse. This project was deployed at the recent "STEAM on Spectrum" event at Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC). The idea behind the event is to make Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) more accessible and inclusive to people despite their sensory and cognitive needs.

We also showcased our eye-tracking and medical sensing equipment at the Science Connect event organized by the Old Dominion University College of Science on October 19th. The event was free and open for Norfolk public high school students. Students were able to tour the labs, meet faculty staff, learn about courses offered, and research conducted at ODU.

Recently, we held our inaugural "Trick or Research" event in the computer science department, where Undergraduates and Graduate students were invited to the labs in the department for informative sessions about the research projects being carried out.

-- Bhanuka Mahanama