Tokyo Institute of Technology: Bringing Ideas in Remote Discussion (BIRD) AY 2021 exchange program unites students virtually

From February 10 to 21, 2022, the Tokyo Tech Winter Program conducted Bringing Ideas in Remote Discussion (BIRD), a virtual student exchange program between Tokyo Tech and the University of Melbourne.

Traditionally organized as a program that invites students from universities in Oceania to receive research supervision at Tokyo Tech’s laboratories, the Winter Program was again conducted online due to the ongoing pandemic. Seven undergraduate students from the University of Melbourne and six bachelor’s program students from Tokyo Tech participated in the program, conducting fruitful discussions and delivering final presentations related to the event’s theme — mobility and logistics in the post-COVID-19 era.

At the pre-program learning session for Tokyo Tech students, Associate Professor Yuto Koizumi of the Institute for Liberal Arts (ILA) guided Tokyo Tech participants, introducing them to two types of self-study methods to enhance their spoken English skills — a long-term approach and a short-term, more intensive method that creates results quickly. The participating students put in plenty of effort before the start of the program to prepare for discussions in English with their University of Melbourne counterparts.

In academic year 2021, BIRD was divided into four parts:

Pre-program learning for Tokyo Tech students
Icebreaking sessions
Zoom lectures on mobility and logistics in the post-COVID-19 era
Collaborative teamwork and presentation of results
In the icebreaking sessions, four Tokyo Tech teaching assistants (TAs) serving as facilitators helped students get to know each other through online games.

Five lectures on mobility and logistics in the COVID-19 era were provided by a diverse group of academics. The lectures were as follows:

Development of Biosensors for Rapid Virus Detection in Post-Corona Era, Professor Hiroshi Ueda, Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Tech
COVID-19 Response in Developing Countries, Saeda Makimoto, Principal Research Fellow, JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development
Role of Packaging in Maintaining the Quality of Fresh Produce, Dr. Hiroaki Kitazawa, Principal Scientist, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO)
Transforming Agriculture with Smarter Fertilisers, Associate Professor Kathryn Mumford, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Melbourne
Engineering Limbs – Helping Amputees in Vietnam Walk, Professor Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne.
NARO’s Kitazawa speaking about packaging for fresh produce

NARO’s Kitazawa speaking about packaging for fresh produce
In the latter portion of the program, the 13 participants split into three teams, chose several issues raised by the lecturers, and discussed potential solutions. With the support of the Tokyo Tech TAs, the students in each team compiled their opinions and presented their original findings and ideas on the final day. During the break, two Tokyo Tech participants conducted a live online campus tour, showing the University of Melbourne students around Ookayama train station and facilities on Ookayama Campus. At the closing ceremony, certificates of completion of the program were presented to all participants by Professor Junichi Takada, Tokyo Tech’s vice president for international affairs.

To conclude, the Best Presentation Award as voted by the participants was presented to Team TAMTAM, whose talk focused on the social protection response to the COVID-19 crisis in developing countries. Tokyo Tech’s Ryo Yasuda, a 2nd-year Systems and Control Engineering student, was also presented with the Best Question Award.

Presentation on “Social protection response to the COVID-19 crisis: developing countries” by Team TAMTAM
Comments from participating studentsyo Yasuda
2nd year, Systems and Control Engineering
I could enjoy opportunities to communicate with students from the University of Melbourne as well as lectures and the group work. For example, the icebreaking session, Slack communication, and the online campus tour of Tokyo Tech were great experiences for me. Thank you to the professors who prepared the lectures and projects, and to the TAs who helped with the group work.

Risako Yanagase
2nd year, Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering
The biggest thing I learned in the program was how much we have in common despite the big difference between the cultures. Chatting and sharing our lives with the members of the group helped me realize this.

Shehara Aashika Deen
2nd year, Melbourne School of Design, The University of Melbourne
The BIRD program was very inspiring and informative for me as someone who was completely new to the topic of discussion. The professors and TAs were all amazing and helpful! The team assignment was a great way to make friends and I’m so happy and thankful for this opportunity to make friends and learn new things!