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Student facility proposals take form at Tokyo Tech Grand Prix 2

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Published: January 29, 2021

Hisao & Hiroko Taki Plazaouter (Taki Plaza), the new landmark exchange hub on Ookayama Campus, is nearing completion. Physical construction of the facility finished on November 13, and Tokyo Tech's students are now adding final touches to the hub before its grand opening next spring.

Tokyo Tech Grand Prix 2, an event for students to propose ideas for future uses of Taki Plaza, was held on October 21 and 28. This was the second event of its kind after the first Tokyo Tech Grand Prix took place in October 2018. This year, participant numbers had to be kept to a minimum due to COVID-19, so the fastest 15 Japanese students and 15 international students to register were selected for the event.

React Pitch Act

The theme for the two-day event, "React Pitch Act," encouraged participants from different backgrounds to interact, negotiate, pitch ideas to one another, and express them through final presentations. One important goal was to generate ideas that can be applied and realized at Taki Plaza in the near future.

Taki Plaza near completion

Taki Plaza near completion

Unlike in 2018, participants now had the entire 5,000-m2 building to examine with their own eyes. After splitting into groups of six on Day One, the participants drew straws to receive one specific challenge for which they were asked to create a solution. These challenges were drawn up by Taki Plaza Gardeners, or TPGs — members of the student group who will help operate Taki Plaza in the future. On Day Two, solutions to these six challenges were presented to the entire group. Overall, all challenges and solutions had a shared goal — to create ideas for making the facility more user-friendly for all students while adhering to the original concept conceived by the main donor of the building — a space where international and Japanese students connect, deepen ties, and create the future together

Group D in discussion
Group D in discussion

Members of Group B exchanging ideas
Members of Group B exchanging ideas

The audience for the presentations on Day Two consisted of Gurunavi Inc. Chairman and CEO Hisao Taki, the donor who made Taki Plaza possible, President Kazuya Masu, Executive Vice President Tetsuya Mizumoto, and numerous members of Kengo Kuma and Associates, the architects who were involved in the design of the facility. All presentations were given in English, and the participants seemed comfortable with this, expressing and exchanging opinions frankly.

1st-year student Fabiano Almeida of Group E presenting
1st-year student Fabiano Almeida of Group E presenting

1st-year student Saw Kay Khine Oo sharing ideas of Group D
1st-year student Saw Kay Khine Oo sharing ideas of Group D

Presentations during Day Two

Presentations during Day Two

At the end of each presentation, the groups were challenged with numerous questions from the audience. Each presentation was rigorously judged by members of Gurunavi Inc., Kengo Kuma and Associates, Tokyo Tech faculty and staff, and the TPGs. Of the six groups, four were acknowledged with awards for their excellent ideas, particularly in terms of originality and feasibility.

Group C receiving TPG Award
Group C receiving TPG Award

The judges were particularly impressed with the efforts of Group C, who proposed Taki Bar. Taki Bar would offer meals and games from a different country every Friday after classes and lab activities have finished, as inspired by hanakin, the Japanese equivalent of the "TGIF" concept. The group's proposal won the TPG Award and is now being considered for full launch at Taki Plaza. Other ideas presented by the groups were as follows.

 
Challenge
Proposal
Group A
What kind of space would you introduce in the existing Taki Plaza, and on which floor? Please propose one new function based on the existing floor map and concept.
Setting up a shared bulletin board. Currently, information sharing at Tokyo Tech relies on SNS and on-campus paper bulletin boards. In addition to information sharing, the new Taki Plaza bulletin board would be combined with SNS use to enabling voting, Q&A functions, and recruitment of members for student positions.
Group B
Please suggest one good use and system for each floor of Taki Plaza based on the concept of each floor. How would you ensure that the facility becomes more than simply a cozy, relaxing place?
Identifying comfortable spaces on each floor of the facility and proposing solutions for each of these areas. For example, the international exchange space, fitted with manga for users to enjoy, would host games, research events, and other active exchanges. The tatami area could host Japanese tea culture and other events.
Group C 
Winners of TPG Award, Honorable Mention from Gurunavi Inc.
Please propose one idea for sparking new exchanges between Japanese and international graduate students at Taki Plaza, who tend to be isolated in labs and smaller communities.
Launching Taki Bar, an inviting venue where research students can enjoy meals and games from a different country every Friday night. Instead of workshops and serious discussions, Taki Bar would offer a natural atmosphere where students can communicate in a relaxed manner while enjoying the concept of hanakin.
Group D 
Winners of Tokyo Tech Award
Please make one suggestion for how to increase interest in Taki Plaza among Japanese and international students.
Creating a space that makes you feel like you are traveling the world. This could come in the form of overseas card games, food, and movies. In addition, events could include the creation of coasters that international students could take home as souvenirs from Japan.
Group E 
Winners of Gurunavi Inc. Award
Please propose one idea to make Taki Plaza accessible to all Tokyo Tech students, including those who are not familiar with international exchange.
To encourage more students to gather, arrange functions that make full use of the unique characteristics of Tokyo Tech, such as moving Tokyo Tech Alumni Association events to Taki Plaza, making on-campus part-time jobs accessible via the facility, and setting up a large table that encourage discussion during lunch.
Group F 
Winners of Kengo Kuma & Associates Award
Design one event that can be held at Taki Plaza based on current floor plans during which students can interact with each other regardless of language.
Regardless of language, a friendship can develop if two factors exist — the chance to meet someone and the opportunity to conduct exchanges. To get this process moving, we propose the use of "social coupons." First, students acquire coupons such as coffee tickets through game events that are easy to join. These coupons can then be used only as pairs with international students, creating an opportunity to deepen relationships at times that suit the students' schedules.

Despite the challenging circumstances caused by COVID-19, Tokyo Tech Grand Prix 2 was a successful event to involve the students of Tokyo Tech in campus operations. After the event, a number of international and Japanese students expressed heightened interest in the future of Taki Plaza and became the newest members of the TPG group. The group looks forward to hosting future events where the diverse students of Tokyo Tech unite to create something new together.

Video of Tokyo Tech Grand Prix 2 (Japanese)outer

Courtesy of the TPG production team

Tokyo Tech Fund

This event is supported by Tokyo Tech Fund

Tokyo Institute of Technology Fund

Contact

Support Planning Group, Student Support Division

Email gak.sie@jim.titech.ac.jp

Tel +81-3-5734-3011

Student Learning Support Section, Student Support Center

Email concierge.info@jim.titech.ac.jp

Tel +81-3-5734-2760

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