Tokyo Institute of Technology: Elementary school students explore world of cells in online workshop

One goal of the Tokyo Institute of Technology Fund (Tokyo Tech Fund) is to create opportunities for youngsters through the STEM Education for Younger Generations initiative.

Thanks to the community members supporting this cause, eighteen elementary school students from grades four through six, together with their guardians, joined an online workshop entitled “Inside a cell — Exploring the dancing microworld” on December 6, 2020. This workshop, organized in collaboration with Tokyo Tech’s Molecular Engine research group, was led by Associate Professor Makito Miyazaki, a cell biophysics expert and member of the Hakubi Project at Kyoto University.

During the workshop, Miyazaki sent participants a microscopic image of plastic particles with a diameter of 1 μm undergoing Brownian motion. The children then analyzed this motion on their home computers, comparing it to other moving objects they see frequently. Next, the group conducted a random walk experiment using a two-dimensional board game sheet and dice. The youngsters were encouraged to consider the characteristics of Brownian motion by comparing the movements of different particles. To complete the session, Miyazaki gave a simple introduction to molecular engines which function by skillfully utilizing Brownian motion.

While admitting that the content was challenging, many participants also expressed a newborn interest in the microworld after the event. Feedback was also positive from the children’s guardians, providing a satisfactory ending to this exploration of the world of cells.

Children comparing Brownian motion to movements of frequently seen objects

Children comparing Brownian motion to movements of frequently seen objects
Using dice to recreate random walk of particles

Using dice to recreate random walk of particles
Introduction to research on molecular engines

Introduction to research on molecular engines
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Education for Younger Generations
STEM Education for Younger Generations, supported by the Tokyo Tech Fund, is an initiative that facilitates science classes and other regular educational events for elementary, middle, and high school students. By nurturing intellectual creativity from an early age, Tokyo Tech aims to open new paths for today’s youngsters — the leaders of the future.

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