TEDx TohokuUniversity 2018 was held at Aobayama campus on April 8. With the theme of Blueprints, the event brought together students, faculty and local community members for a series of talks aimed at inspiring change.
"Here at Tohoku University, the ultimate goal has always been to build better communities both local and global," said university president Hideo Ohno in his welcome speech. "In other words, the corner stone of everything we do, every research project we take on, is part of our blueprint to building a better world."
He added that "Sharing, learning and growing is what education at a university is all about, and that is the reason we are here today."
The event featured eight speakers presenting their blueprints for success in three broad areas - personal goals, community and technology.
Drew Borders, who led the Speaker Team on the organizing committee, said the eight speakers were chosen for their passion and the way their ideas fit together. "For example, Kenichiro Nakamura's talk was about creating a 10-year dream and following through with it. Then Yosuke Hara talked about having the courage to study a different field and getting into something that you aren't normally used to. Different ideas, but connected because they all apply to an aspect of our future selves."
The mood was lively, as the roughly 200 attendees responded enthusiastically to the speakers.
Indah Anandya, an environmental engineering student originally from Indonesia, said she was surprised by how entertaining the talks were. "I especially liked Marty Kuehnert, the former baseball general manager. I remember many points he made because he shared funny anecdotes that made me laugh."
Ibuki Masuda, a materials science student, said he was most impressed with Kentaro Ono's talk about the Pacific island of Kiribati and the impact of climate change there. "Of course I know about global warming, but this was my first time hearing the real voice of someone suffering. The speaker's message was so powerful that I'm now thinking about how I can change my actions."
Not every speaker spoke in English and not every attendee was bilingual. So for the first time, organisers provided a simultaneous translation service through an app called Interactio. The app enabled attendees to stream real time audio translation of the talks through their mobile phones.
Kiya Okhlopkova, leader of the Translation Team, said she got the idea from her own experience attending the TEDx event last year. "I had such a great time listening to all the inspiring speakers but my friend was a bit frustrated because half the talks were in Japanese, which she couldn't understand.
"So I thought, in such an amazing global atmosphere, with so many great ideas being shared, wouldn't it be even better if we could overcome the language barrier and engage everyone in all the talks?"
It was an ambitious project for the Translation Team, which comprised students from China, Indonesia, Japan and Russia, but Okhlopkova said they were determined to make it work.
"We got the scripts from the speakers a few days in advance and translated them," said team member Erina Chiba about the process. "Then we read our translations live during the speech so that people using the app could follow along."
As amateur translators, the students said it took them several hours, sometimes even several days, to translate each 15 minute speech. And they worked closely with the speakers to ensure that they were as accurate and prepared as possible.
"As we are reading live, we have to be aware of the timing and what the speaker is saying so that we can match the sentences," said Chiba. "To accurately reflect what is being said, we also have to be able to improvise when the speakers go off script or suddenly decide to say something completely different."
Fellow team member Jun Howard said it was a good learning experience. "This time, we were focused mostly on the translation and timing. In retrospect, we could have also researched the speakers' speech patterns, their habits, whether they speak fast or slow, if they like to improvise. That is something we will do next time so that we can be better."
TED - which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design - is a non-profit organization started in 1984 to spread good ideas through short, powerful talks.
While TED takes a global view on issues, TEDx is an independently organized event that similarly aims to encourage the sharing of ideas, but with a focus on local communities. This is the second year that students, with the support and supervision from Tohoku University, have brought the platform to Aobayama campus.