Monday, July 30, 2012


Yesterday and today at Tohoku University, ordered chaos is the rule of the day as hundreds if not thousands of high school students (and some elementary students) have descended upon the campus for what is known as Open Campus.

Open Campus is apparently something that all colleges do around this time of year as a large component of their student recruitment, opening up all labs and classrooms to explanations and demonstrations of the research and learning opportunities available for students.  It sounds like something I think that a lot of colleges do in the US.  And yet...

There are no guided tours with well-dressed representative students explaining impressive facts and figures about the buildings and the university.  There are few (if any) parents asking a million questions about things that students forget to even think about.  In fact, for the large part, administration in general is largely absent.

Instead, it's the graduate students and undergraduate students themselves who largely run the show.  They stand at the bus stops, ready to pass out maps and direct students to the various departments they are interested in looking at and outside their labs, with posters and hands-on demos and even movies and touchable exhibits to explain their research.  In a large sense, it feels like a large job fair where each lab does what they can to entice you to join them.  However, since these students need to pass the college exam to get admitted, all of that job fair pressure to network and make a good impression is gone.  Essentially, it's just a bunch of people investigating the exciting world of learning.

At first I was pretty skeptical.  For the last few days of the previous work week, all the students in my lab were busy with preparations and there just wasn't much I could do to help.  Walking into the office yesterday and feeling the excitement of the lab but knowing there was nothing I could do to contribute, I became discouraged.  

One of the other students asked me, "Are you going to go explore?"  
Me: Explore?
Student: Yes, it's Open Campus.  All of the labs are open.  Just walk around and I'm sure you'll find students who can speak English.

Essentially, it was a free invitation to see exactly what kind of university research Tohoku University had to offer.  These opportunities don't come very often.  I jumped at the chance.  

So, yesterday I spent the entire afternoon wandering around the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department.  I met a few people who were willing to explain their research in English, a few who were willing to explain their research in Japanese, and few people who just let me observe and smiled kindly at me.  It was a ton of fun!  

I highly recommend that the US follow this practice.  I wish I had the chance to see what research was being done at UVa or at BYU.  All those buildings, all those labs - it would have been thrilling to understand the diversity of learning that such universities have to offer.  
Scramjet research

Model A on display

Engine on the Model A

Couldn't resist taking a picture of these
gorgeous flowers outside of the PIV lab

What is a business incubator?  

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