Tokyo Tech News
The world is currently facing a myriad of changes and challenges that do not have one single solution. Our ability to communicate with our fellow citizens, identify potential issues, and propose ideas to solve these issues has become critical. The best solutions often emerge when specialists from different fields address a problem together.
This kind of team-oriented problem solving is the focus of the Engineering Design Project (EDP), a project-based learning experience included in Tokyo Tech's Engineering Sciences and Design course and the Cross Border Entrepreneurship Education (CBEC) program. EDP participants concentrate on discovering potential needs, proposing solutions, and creating prototypes based on real-world problems.
In academic year 2020, EDP students from Tokyo Tech teamed up with students from Musashino Art University and Showa Women's University, as well as working professionals who participated. Four partner companies — Dream TAKA, Panasonic Corporation, SAKURA internet Inc., and YKK AP Inc. — joined the project to suggest challenging topics to the participants.
The most highly evaluated prototype created in academic year 2020 is currently on display* at Tsutaya Electrics Plus, a next-generation showroom in the Tokyo neighborhood of Futakotamagawa where visitors can have hands-on experiences with unique products.
EDP began in 2015 and was conducted for the sixth time in academic year 2020. Over the course of approximately six months, participants utilize an original design thinking-based process to address problems from unique perspectives and create innovative products and services. Partner companies join the projects to provide participants with topics that reflect real-world issues.
EDP begins in October of each year. After receiving an explanation on why a particular topic is selected from a partner company, participants begin their activities, which culminate in a final presentation in February. Interactive classes are held every other week. During these classes, each team presents the activities they have completed, receives questions from other students, and collects feedback from faculty members and partner companies. Team members then decide on their next steps. At the start of each project, participants strive to empathize with and understand potential users by conducting interviews on these users. In additional to open discussions in front of the whiteboard, participants also create simple prototypes from cardboard and seek potential issues that users may face. These potential issues form the starting point of the ideation step of the process.
In late December, ideas that aim solve user problems begin to take shape. Participants start using 3D printers and other digital machine tools to create an actual moving prototype. The user experience carries as much weight as the prototype itself, so participants create videos of users testing out their creations.
Final presentations for the academic year 2020 EDP project were held on Ookayama Campus on February 6, 2021. To kick things off, Yuhey Iwata, co-founder and CEO of SpoLive Interactive, Inc. and graduate of the CBEC program, gave a keynote speech. After this, each team presented their results and gave demos to provide the audience with a closer look at their prototypes. Presentations were also streamed on the web, where online audience members commented on the prototypes and user experiences. Feedback was extremely positive. A total of 243 students participated in the final presentations, after which the sense of accomplishment was clearly visible among the participants.
After deliberation by faculty members, the prototype podico, a new type of washing machine, was selected for display at Tsutaya Electrics Plus, a showroom in the upscale neighborhood of Futakotamagawa in Tokyo.
In 2020, Panasonic Corporation challenged EDP participants to create new products or services under the topic "Design a washing machine that adults cannot do without." Team Washing Machine Bravehearts came up with podico, a clothing cooler and dehumidifier designed for people living in dorms, where washing machines are often shared. Shared machines are not always available when needed, and that is where the podico comes in handy. It cools and dehumidifies sweaty or otherwise wet items of clothing, removing unpleasant odors and preventing mold. Users can therefore keep their laundry in order while waiting for their turn to use shared washing machines.
EDP is always looking for new students to join its innovative activities. In academic year 2021, students in the Engineering Sciences and Design course at Tokyo Tech, art students from Musashino Art University, Showa Women's University, Tama Art University, Joshibi University of Art and Design, Tokyo Zokei University, Nihon University College of Art and Graduate School of Art, and working adults are eligible to participate. EDP also welcomes partner companies to join projects for approximately half a year, provide the diverse teams challenging topics to work on, and be surprised by the unique products and services that are born. For more details, check out the EDP website (Japanese).