Tokyo Tech News
Four of Asia's Top Science and Engineering Universities Participate
The ASPIRE Undergraduate Engineering Design Challenge, an international workshop for undergraduate students of the ASPIRE League*, of which Tokyo Tech is a member, was held online for five days from Monday, June 27 to Friday, July 1. The ASPIRE League is a consortium of top science and engineering universities in Asia, established in 2009 at the initiative of Tokyo Tech with the aim of forming an innovation hub in Asia. Since 2014, the league has been conducting an undergraduate student exchange program as part of its activities. This year, the program was hosted and conducted online by Tokyo Tech to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This program was planned and implemented by Associate Professor Kazuaki Inaba (Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering, School of Environment and Society) together with Associate Professor Masaki Yagisawa (Department of International Digital and Design Management, School of Management, Tokyo University of Science) as an online workshop where students can learn the basics of engineering design.
A total of 13 students-four from Tokyo Tech, nine from Tsinghua University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) participated, utilizing tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Miro (online whiteboard).
Also, for Tokyo Tech participants, the course was offered as a 2-credit International Engineering Design Project Fundamentals S course.
On the second day of the program, a lecture was given on Japanese Noh, one of Japan's representative traditional performing arts.
The ASPIRE League is a consortium of top science and engineering universities in Asia, established in 2009 at the initiative of Tokyo Tech, with the aim of forming a hub for innovation in Asia through the development of science and technology and the development of human resources. The five member universities are Tsinghua University (China), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (China), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Korea), and Tokyo Tech, the last of which has served as the secretariat since its establishment.
The objective of this year's workshop was to explore new designs and services by understanding the five basic steps of the "design thinking" approach: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The assignment was to design a product, system and service purchased only by Japanese people, using a Japanese tradition as a prompt. The students were divided into four teams of mixed universities, and began by selecting and learning about particular cultural and seasonal events in Japan, contrasting them with those of their own. Each team chose a Japanese event – such as hanami and yozakura (cherry-blossom picnics and viewing at night), tanabata (Star Festival), fireworks, writing New Year's greeting cards – and interviewed Japanese people about it. The participants repeatedly tested their ideas for their product or service including giving interviewees tangible prototypes. They finally put together a proposal for their new product or service for the presentation on the last day of the program.
During the workshop, Professor Shigeki Saito, Professor Miki Saijo, Associate Professor Takumi Ohashi, and Assistant Professor Yuki Taoka – all who belong to the Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering of the School of Environment and Society – made comments on and gave advice regarding each team's activities at three feedback meetings, after which participants refined their ideas for their final presentations.
In addition, five graduate students from Tokyo Tech joined each team as teaching assistants to support team discussions.
On the final day, this year's workshop ended on a high note, with each team successfully completing their assignment of designing a product, system, or service that only Japanese people would purchase as a part of their presentation.
On June 28, Associate Professor Mariko Anno of the Institute for Liberal Arts gave a lecture on Noh as an introduction to Japanese culture.
She introduced Noh drama (a traditional Japanese performing arts from the Muromachi period) from a studio at Tokyo Tech and concluded with a live performance of Nohkan (Noh flute) by herself.
All participants were immersed in the world of Noh, which they were hearing about for the first time, making the lecture an elegant and valuable experience.
All participants were able to share a very meaningful time together in an online gathering despite the COVID-19 pandemic. We concluded the last day of the meeting by expressing our hope that next year's workshop will be held in person.