Tokyo Institute of Technology: Tokyo Tech-AYSEAS 2021 held online

Since 2013, Tokyo Tech-Asia Young Scientist and Engineer Advanced Study (AYSEAS) has been connecting Tokyo Tech students with counterparts from universities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. Though ordinarily conducted as a 10-day on-site program hosted by an AYSEAS member university, AYSEAS was held online in AY 2021. Eleven students from Tokyo Tech and 24 students from member universities participated.

Program Overview
The online iteration of AYSEAS was conducted with the support of various organizations, companies and individuals, providing participants with opportunities to engage in virtual site visits and talks organized especially for the 2021 program. Two AYSEAS alumni from Thailand spoke with current participants about their paths to doctoral programs in Japan, as well as their careers and current research. In another session, staff members from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Viet Nam Office and Kopernik Japan discussed their experiences in the field of international aid and responded to AYSEAS participants’ questions. Participants also virtually visited the site of Hitachi, Ltd.’s Ho Chi Minh City metro project. As the city was under lockdown, the live broadcast from the construction site was cancelled, but thanks to the extensive inclusion of photos and videos in the briefing presentation by Hitachi, participants reported feeling as though they had visited in person. In addition, Dr. Hiroshi Takagi of Tokyo Tech’s Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering lectured on development and natural disasters in Asia.

As in previous years, AYSEAS participants worked together in groups to prepare final presentations. Each of the six groups was tasked with creating a plan to launch a company or an NGO, or create a product or service, and present it on the final day of the program. The plans proposed covered topics ranging from brain drain and education to disaster management in a pandemic, public health, and tourism. The quality of the presentations indicated participants’ strong efforts and cohesion despite various constraints.

In a typical year, the best part of AYSEAS is that participants from different backgrounds reside, eat, and socialize together throughout the program, thereby developing mutual understanding and establishing close relationships. In preparing for the online program, the organizing team was concerned with how these valuable interpersonal connections could be nurtured under completely different circumstances. However, students gathered during non-program hours on their own initiative and used various online tools to have discussions and play together. In the closing session, students surprised AYSEAS organizers with a video they created to express their gratitude for the program.