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Sparking an interest in Science

The summer holidays offer a number of workshops for local school children - including science enrichment programmes held at Tohoku University.

From August 4~6, the Innovation Plaza on Aobayama Campus hosted the 22nd "Fun with Science" summer school, bringing together 31 junior high school students from Miyagi Prefecture.

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For three days, participants explored different aspects of engineering through hands-on experiments, mentored by students and professors from Tohoku University, Miyagi University of Education and Sendai National College of Technology.

The central theme for this year's programme was "Light and Electronics." And in keeping with that theme, students were put into groups and given assignments to build devices using robot control systems, and light and radio wave signals.

"I've always been curious about how robots are put together, and it's been really fun combining all the electrical components needed for this project," said first year junior high school student Kohei Hashimoto, whose group worked on solar powered drones.

His group's mission was to construct mini-helicopters, while rigging up solar panels to accumulate enough energy to fly them. The power generated by the panels was stored by lightweight electric double-layer capacitors - a technological improvement on the old-school battery.

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One of the programme coordinators, Associate Professor Masahide Abe from Tohoku University's School of Engineering, said he wasn't surprised by the students' enthusiasm. "I had an interest in mechanisms and electrical circuits from a young age, so I was always pulling things apart to see how they worked," he said. "The great thing about this summer school is that students aren't just listening to instructions, but have the chance to create simple machinery using their own hands."

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Programme participants also had the opportunity to visit research labs on campus, and were treated to a demonstration of robots performing programmed tasks by students from the Sendai National College of Technology.

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On the final day, participants presented the results of their experiments.

"My dream job is to be a robotic engineer in the future," said first year junior high school student Harufumi Kanno, whose group made robots controlled by light signals. "My interests began with making motorized Lego minifigures. I've downloaded instructions from websites in Denmark among other places, and to date, I've built over 350 models."

The summer school was started in 1994 with the aim of sparking an interest in science among children. The programme is planned and run by volunteer staff from Tohoku University, Tohoku Gakuin University, Tohoku Institute of Technology, Miyagi University of Education and Sendai National College of Technology, with the support of the KDDI Foundation.

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For enquiries about the programme:

Summer Science School,
School of Engineering, Tohoku University
Email: sss2015ecei.tohoku.ac.jp

For enquiries about this article:

Tohoku University International PR Section
Tel: +81-22-217-4816
Fax: +81-22-217-4818
Email: public_relationsgpr.tohoku.ac.jp

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