Tokyo Tech News
From June 24 to 30, Tokyo Tech hosted ASPIRE Forum 2021 with the theme Better Living for All in a New Normal.
Established in 2009, the ASPIRE League is a consortium of leading science and technology universities in Asia. It comprises the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore), Tsinghua University, and Tokyo Tech.
The ASPIRE Forum, a multi-day event encompassing a student workshop, a symposium, and the Vice Presidents and Senior Staff Meeting (VPSSM), is conducted by the League every summer. Under the direction of Executive Vice President Tetsuya Mizumoto, who has served as the ASPIRE League Chairperson since 2019, Tokyo Tech hosted the ASPIRE Forum in 2019 and 2020*.
In 2021, all activities of ASPIRE Forum were conducted online. The new format was a success thanks to the cooperation of the member universities.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only an online VPSSM was held.
ASPIRE Forum 2021 kicked off with the Student Workshop. The weeklong program comprised an orientation, lectures, group work, and a presentation session on June 30. A total of 22 students from the ASPIRE League and its European counterpart, the IDEA League*1, joined the Workshop and interacted via the platforms Zoom, Slack, and Miro.
Five Tokyo Tech master's students participated:
Workshop participants were divided into four teams according to their selection of one of the following prompts, which were set in advance by Tokyo Tech faculty members:
A) Propose super smart services and products (e.g. smart mobility, smart agriculture, etc.) realized by 5G and beyond.
B) Propose services and devices to prevent accidents caused by changes in mental and physical functions of children or the elderly.
C) Propose any biotechnology-based services and devices that you think we have to invent and develop in order for 100 people to live on the moon for a year.
To set the stage for the group work, Tokyo Tech faculty members gave lectures related to these topics. School of Engineering Professor Kei Sakaguchi spoke on 5G and Beyond to Realize Super Smart Society. Professor Yoshifumi Nishida, also of the School of Engineering, shared ideas on how to make society resilient to human physical and cognitive changes, and Associate Professor Yasunori Aizawa of the School of Life Science and Technology introduced synthetic biology as means of addressing global challenges.
Participants then drew on their individual research backgrounds and information obtained through the lectures and the ASPIRE Symposium to develop their team's proposals.
Tokyo Tech Associate Professor Kazuaki Inaba of the School of Environment and Society served as the Student Workshop leader and moderator. In feedback sessions, Inaba and other Tokyo Tech faculty members shared advice on the student teams' proposals and presentations.
Five Tokyo Tech graduate students, serving as Teaching Assistants for the Student Workshop, facilitated students' discussions and supported the process of proposal development.
The ASPIRE Symposium was held as a webinar to which all students, faculty and staff members of the ASPIRE League member universities were invited. A total of 73 attendees, including the Student Workshop participants, listened to talks by five faculty members representing each of the member universities: Professor Davis Bookhart from HKUST, Professor Shin-Hyun Kim from KAIST, Professor Hallam Stevens from NTU Singapore, Professor Jian Liu from Tsinghua University, and Professor Shigeki Saito from Tokyo Tech.
Tokyo Tech School of Environment and Society Professor Saito lectured on Engineering Design Education based on Design Thinking Approach. Introducing Tokyo Tech's Engineering Design Project, Saito described how the design thinking approach can be utilized in developing technologies to address people’s needs.
Tokyo Tech Vice President for International Affairs Jun-ichi Takada served as the moderator of the Symposium and led the Q&A session held at the end of each talk.
Student Workshop participants commented that they benefitted a great deal from knowledge shared by professors from a variety of fields and backgrounds. They reported gaining inspiration for their group projects.
On the afternoon of June 29, Mizumoto welcomed fellow vice presidents and senior staff to the annual Vice Presidents and Senior Staff Meeting (VPSSM).
Reflecting on the past year, the vice presidents took turns sharing their respective universities' activities for international collaboration in a "new normal." Later, they discussed the ASPIRE League's activities for 2021–22, including educational programs and the selection of collaborative research proposals to receive funding under the ASPIRE League Partnership Seed Fund.
Further, it was agreed that KAIST would serve as the League's chair university for 2022 and 2023.
On the final day of the Student Workshop and ASPIRE Forum 2021, the student teams presented their group work achievements in the form of proposals for new services or products. As per ASPIRE League tradition, their presentations were attended by the vice presidents, serving as reviewers, and senior staff members.
The vice presidents gave the Best Group Presentation Award to the Super Sci-fi Moonwalkers team in recognition for their proposed system to recycle water on the moon.
In addition, Riccardo Orlando Miele from Politecnico di Milano and Yicong Li from Tsinghua University received the Best Presentation Award, which recognizes the abilities of individual students in effectively communicating their knowledge and ideas.
The vice presidents and senior staff member attendees to the presentations commented that they were impressed by the quality of the students' proposals and presentations. In closing remarks, Mizumoto declared, "As the ASPIRE Student Workshop participants proved today, it is possible to deepen the ties between our universities through online collaboration."
A consortium of five leading science and technology universities in Europe: Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland, RWTH Aachen University in Germany, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and Politecnico di Milano in Italy.