Mechanical Engineering Graduate Finds Purpose, Programs Path in Robotics

Eashan Gallage Lunabotics
Eashan Gallage at the NASA Lunabotics Challenge.

By the time Eashan Gallage started at Drexel, he'd already been exposed to a myriad of perspectives and environments. Gallage is originally from Matara, Sri Lanka, but he completed his first two years of college at Hangzhou Dianzi University in Zhejiang, China. "I had a very tight knit community in Sri Lanka," Gallage explained. "The people I met in China didn't communicate as much, but they were always very helpful and nice."

The pandemic forced Gallage to move back to Sri Lanka and continue his studies online, after which he came to Philadelphia. While he described the U.S. as being "loud," Gallage found Philly to have a liveliness he hadn't previously experienced. "No matter what day of the week it is, you can always find something to do in the city," he said. Gallage also noted that, even if the weather was rainy or cold, he could call his friends and ask them to hang out, which provided a nice sense of community.

In addition to the change of pace Philly provided, Gallage also made sure to take advantage of his opportunities at Drexel. "I didn't have a specific plan of what I'd be pursuing after graduation, so I wanted to keep my options as open as possible," Gallage explained. Having a wide range of applications and fields, such as aerospace, aeronautics, and robotics, mechanical engineering gave him the flexibility he needed to explore numerous career paths.

Gallage also pursued a minor in mathematics, a subject he has always enjoyed. His aptitude afforded him the opportunity to conduct research with Georgi Medvedev, PhD, professor of mathematics, on applying mathematical theory to the real world. It also allowed him to make a big impact during his co-op with Kulicke & Soffa (K&S), a company that creates robots used in the manufacturing process of semiconductors.

Gallage was tasked with creating a mathematical model to predict key processes in K&S's production machine, as well as a C++ program to control the machine autonomously. His work ultimately introduced a new process to K&S's machine, which Gallage got to see for himself after visiting the company this past April. "That was a very fulfilling moment. I was really proud of the work I did for that project, so seeing it come to fruition was really satisfying," Gallage expressed.

Gallage further explored his interests in automation and robotics outside of the co-op program. Drexel's flexible curriculum allowed him to take graduate-level coursework in robotics through the electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department. Gallage also served as the project lead for Drexel's team in the NASA Lunabotics Challenge, which finished as one of only 15 teams nationwide whose robot achieved autonomy.

These experiences culminated in a senior design project focused on ROS autonomous navigation. Gallage's team, consisting of three mechanical engineering and mechanics (MEM) and two ECE students, were focused heavily on the computer science side of robotics, which presented some challenges.

Yet Gallage's previous programming experience, especially in his work with K&S, gave him the confidence he needed to apply his skills to his senior design project. He also received plenty of support from Drexel faculty. "There were so many late nights where my main partner and I stayed up because we had to get a test done the next day," Gallage explained. "It was very challenging, but whenever we ran into roadblocks, there were people who always helped us out." Gallage specifically credited his team's advisors for their guidance: Arvin Ebrahimkhanlou, PhD, assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, and Euisun Kim, PhD, assistant teaching professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics.

As Gallage looks to the future, he expresses his gratitude for the various ways Drexel has impacted his life. "Had I not come here, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to complete a mathematics minor or math research," Gallage reflected. "I was also able to find my calling in robotics and interact with so many different cultures. I think I've expanded my horizons a lot because of Drexel."