Tokyo Tech Glocal Summer School 2020 meets online

Tokyo Tech’s Glocal Summer School gathered for an intensive three-day online session of lectures and groupwork three hours a day from September 15 to 17. The program, launched in 2019 and held twice a year, once again brought together master’s, professional master’s, and doctoral students from Tokyo Tech, students from other universities, and working professionals to form a diverse group of participants with varying backgrounds.

Image depicting this fall’s theme

Image depicting this fall’s theme
The focus of the September session was “Design for Humanity – Embodiment of memories.” In order to maximize efficiency, participants were asked to prepare tasks in advance on scientific and technical applications which give form to memories. Lectures began at 5 p.m. Japan time to allow international participants to join. Tokyo Tech’s doctoral students earned one liberal arts credit for participating in the event

Day 1
At the beginning of the program, participants acquainted themselves with one other through some lighthearted activities. Group members shared self-introduction sheets, displayed the papercraft marine animals they had created, and talked about their professions and fields of study.

This was followed by a short lecture on research ethics by Tokyo Tech Associate Professor Hironao Kaneko who also coordinated the program. After participants discussed the prepared material in Zoom breakout rooms, a representative summarized the group discussions to other participants. All members then regrouped to continue open discussions about research ethics.

During the special lecture session, Sputniko! — a widely recognized artist and associate professor of Tokyo University of the Arts — gave a talk that touched on art, speculative design, life science, and ethics. She spoke about her current research and past activities at Imperial College London, the Royal College of Art, and the MIT Media Lab. “(Im)possible Baby,” a speculative design project created by Ai Hasegawa — one of Sputniko!’s students at MIT — was of particular interest to participants, encouraging deep insights about mankind’s view of life in the near future.

After the lecture, participants joined the online campus service VirBELA and gathered at a virtual beach for a small party.

Day 2
Day two also offered participants unique lectures. The first was given by members of the Computational Technology Research Club at Hiroshima Prefectural Fukuyama Technical High School. Assisted by club advisor and teacher Katsushi Hasegawa, two third-year high school students — Sena Hirakawa and Yuito Kakihara — presented their work on virtual reality (VR) re-creations of the atomic bomb hypocenter and computer-generated imagery of manned torpedoes used during World War II. They explained the historical data required for creating VR and how this data was organized. In the Q&A session, the club members also presented their international activities and interviews with foreign media. The creators explained that they had to pay particular attention to the details of buildings from the era in question while removing all people from the setting in order to relieve potential psychological stress caused by the VR experience.

The day’s second lecture was presented by picture book artist and director Usa. She shared components of her exhibition “Precious Little Lives Lost in Disasters,” which relived the memories of animals and animal owners lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake through portrait paintings. She also presented her activities in animal protection and read an English translation of her book. Her recitation brought back to life the memories of the countless lost animals and their owners, greatly moving the Glocal Summer School participants. Usa connected to the event from the earthquake site where she currently works.

After the lectures, each group held discussions to decide which social problems they would like to consider as their final presentation topic. To add to the challenge, students were asked to create 3D models that supported their ideas during the final presentation.

Day 3
Day three of the event was all about final presentations. After some last-minute rehearsals, students were ready to face the judges’ panel, which included Tokyo Tech Vice President for Teaching and Learning Jun-ichi Imura. Each group had 10 minutes to share their ideas and respond during the online Q&A session.

Imura said the level of the presentations was as impressive as last year, despite the move to an online environment due to COVID-19. He then awarded the Glocal Prize to a three-student group who proposed ideas for share memories of scent — Saiful Hadi Masran, Koji Koyama, and Muhammad Al Atiqi.

In addition to the program participants, Global Summer School 2020 provided valuable leadership experience to two Tokyo Tech doctoral students — Jerome Silla and Tomomi Miyata — who volunteered as coach assistants. Silla facilitated the groupwork sessions, while Miyata interpreted the special lecture on September 16.

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