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7th ASCENT: Short-term international exchange program organized by Tokyo Tech students

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December 22, 2016

The Student Association for Global Exchange (SAGE) held the 7th Asian Students Collaboration Encouragement Program in Technology (ASCENT) at Tokyo Tech in late August 2016. Twenty students from seven Asian countries participated.

7th ASCENT group photo

7th ASCENT group photo

Overview

ASCENT is a short-term international exchange program organized mainly by students of SAGE. Held for ten days each year in Tokyo, the program aims to promote international exchanges and construct a sustainable network of Asian students in the science and engineering fields.

The theme of each ASCENT focuses on a particular contemporary issue in Asia. According to the theme, participants are offered company visits, laboratory tours at Tokyo Tech, and special lectures and speeches that zoom in on various challenges Asian countries are facing. The program also provides a close-up of Japanese research and technology potentially applicable to solving these challenges. Students work in groups to discuss and debate issues, eventually formulating a conclusion that is presented to the other participants.

ASCENT aims to be a comprehensive program, not only focusing on academic but also cultural activities. Consequently, there are several events such as the cultural exchange party and Japanese culture tour which allow participants to further deepen relationships and bridge cultural gaps.

7th ASCENT

The 7th ASCENT was held between August 19 and 29, 2016. Previous ASCENTs were held in March, but the program was moved to August starting this year in order to better accommodate participants from universities in the ASEAN region, many of which have recently shifted to the semester system.

The 2016 theme was "Robotics & Asian Society." Twenty participants from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Korea, and Japan worked through a week of lectures, company visits, and discussions, all of which culminated in final presentations held on August 27.

Schedule

August 19
Arrival and welcome party
August 20
Opening ceremony, keynote lecture - National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
August 21
Pre-study presentations, cultural exchange event
August 22
Ookayama lab tour 1 - Nakashima Lab, Suzumori Endo Lab (canceled due to typhoon)
August 23
Ookayama lab tour 2 - Yamakita Lab, Takeda Lab
August 24
Company visit 1 - Obayashi Corporation Technical Research Institute
August 25
Company visit 2 - Hi-Bot Corporation
August 26
Study abroad presentation, interim reports
August 27
Final presentations, closing ceremony
August 28
Japanese culture tour, farewell party
August 29
Departure

Participating universities

  • Japan: Tokyo Tech
  • China: Tsinghua University
  • Korea: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
  • Indonesia: Bandung Institute of Technology, Universitas Indonesia, Universitas Gadjah Mada
  • Thailand: Chulalongkorn University
  • The Philippines: De La Salle University
  • Vietnam: Hanoi University of Science and Technology

Program content

  • Keynote lecture

Each ASCENT program begins with a keynote lecture to give the participants a deeper understanding of the theme of that particular year. This year's invited speaker from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology touched on key issues in Japan and Asia, and explained how robotics is being utilized to provide solutions to an increasingly wide range of problems — from far-reaching societal issues to more personal obstacles faced by many in daily life.

Keynote lecture by an invited speaker from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

Keynote lecture by an invited speaker from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

  • Company visits and lab tours

Company visits and lab tours aim to provide participants with a more concrete picture of technology being developed by Japanese companies and related research at Tokyo Tech.

This year, students experienced firsthand the latest robotics technology of Obayashi Corporation's Technical Research Institute and Hi-Bot Corporation. These visits gave students a glimpse of how robots are utilized at construction sites, disaster areas, and factories. Visits to Tokyo Tech's Yamakita Lab and Takeda Lab provided an overview of current research being carried out on the structure and control of robots at the Institute.

The company and lab observations left a lasting impression on a number of students. Many asked questions until the very end of each visit, and one student was inspired enough to create a design for a prototype robot. Another participant was accepted into one of Tokyo Tech's labs. In addition to being an informative week on cutting-edge Japanese robotics, this year's ASCENT was also an effective way to demonstrate Tokyo Tech's continued dedication to the field.

Visit to Hi-Bot Corporation
Visit to Hi-Bot Corporation

Yamakita Lab tour
Yamakita Lab tour

  • Discussions, interim reports, final presentations

Throughout the program, students were given plenty of opportunities to hold group discussions between the lectures, lab tours, and company visits. The diversity of the participants ensured that issues were considered from a variety of viewpoints. Interim presentations were held before the final presentations to allow students to share their temporary conclusions and get constructive feedback from fellow participants, SAGE members, and Tokyo Tech professors. The week culminated in final presentations during which each group proposed an original robot created to address some of Asia's social problems.

Listening intently to participants' viewpoints
Listening intently to participants' viewpoints

Final presentation on robots proposed by students
Final presentation on robots proposed by students

  • Pre-study presentations, cultural exchange event, Japanese culture tour

As in the past, academic activities were intertwined with cultural activities. During pre-study presentations early on in the program, each participant gave a talk on social issues and robotics in their own country, allowing the whole group to grasp the overall situation in Asia. During the cultural exchange event, participants immersed themselves in each other's customs, wearing traditional national costumes and creating hand-made accessories specific to each participant's region. The penultimate day of the program was dedicated to a Japanese culture tour, which took everyone to the numerous shrines and the Great Buddha in the historic coastal city of Kamakura.

Cultural exchange event
Cultural exchange event

Great Buddha in Kamakura
Great Buddha in Kamakura

Comments from ASCENT 2016 project leader

Project leader Lee (right) shaking hands with a participant
Project leader Lee (right) shaking hands with a participant

Kou Lee
3rd year, Electrical and Electronic Engineering

ASCENT was born during the Tokyo Tech-AYSEAS short-term international program in 2008 (then called JAYSES), when Japanese students visiting Southeast Asia were asked about similar programs that would allow them to visit Japan. As a result, SAGE was established, and planning for the first ASCENT began soon after. I was a student leader in Tokyo Tech-AYSEAS 2015. Making use of those experiences as a program participant, I moved on to become the project leader for ASCENT 2016.

The 7th ASCENT welcomed participants from three new universities — Tsinghua University in China, KAIST in Korea, and Hanoi University of Science and Technology in Vietnam. There is still plenty of room for growth in terms of awareness of the program at Tokyo Tech and the potential influence it has on students, and I look forward to seeing the program develop further both in Japan and abroad.

From a personal point of view, balancing my university life and private life for the past year and a half has been very tough at times. However, after seeing the smiles on participants' faces on the last day of the program, I was certain that I had chosen the right path for me.

8th ASCENT

The 8th ASCENT will be held in the summer of 2017. All undergraduate, master's, and doctoral-level students of Asian universities, including Tokyo Tech, are eligible to apply. Program details and application procedures will be made available through the SAGE website, various social networking services, and email newsletters. Applications from overseas university students will be accepted from March, while Tokyo Tech students can apply in April. All those interested are strongly encouraged to utilize the program as a step towards increased international exchange.

Contact

Student Association for Global Exchange (SAGE)

Email sage.tokyo.tech@gmail.com

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