22 February, Tohoku – His Excellency Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, has officially launched the Qatar Science Campus. Built on the grounds of the Engineering Graduate School at Tohoku University, the brand new learning centre started its operations earlier this year and will reach thousands of elementary, junior high, high school students, and parents living in the Tohoku region.
Local education centres were greatly affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, with Tohoku University sustaining in excess of JPY48 billion in damage to equipment and infrastructure. The Qatar Science Campus is part of a pioneering outreach programme supported by the Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF) to help rebuild educational facilities and expose young residents to the wonders of science and technology. Activities at the Campus, which invite parents to participate in workshops with their children, also mirrors Japan’s national curriculum.
“Our understanding of science has underpinned every advancement that mankind has made. From our knowledge of the laws of physics to chemistry, astrology, and robotics, our path has always been guided by pioneering scientists,” said H.E. the Foreign Minister.
Several workshops were held in the build-up to the launch, ranging from polishing precious jewels and learning about minerals, to studying velocity and aerodynamics through the construction and testing of four-wheel-drive racing cars. These attracted more than 1,400 eager young scientists. Learning about electromagnetics and developing simple radio technology and other hands-on activities were complemented by field visits to the germ-free production lines at Coca Cola and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Kakuda Space Centre. Another notable event taking place at QSC was the Sendai Miyagi Science Day, which reached over 7,400 enthusiastic participants from the community last July.
“It was really great to examine various things with microscopes that our school does not have”, said one student. Another explained: “Because I could observe myself directly, it was easier to understand”. Meanwhile, the President of Tohoku University, Mr. Susumu Satomi, stressed the critical role played by QFF in the recovery effort: “The Qatar Science Campus only began operations last July, yet over 10,000 elementary school, junior high and high school students have already attended and benefited from classes and workshops so far. We can clearly see that this project and the broader Tohoku reconstruction which it serves, are rapidly gaining awareness.”
With the support of industry experts from Panasonic, Hitachi, TOSHIBA, Sony Japan, and a host of other global and national companies and education boards, plans are already in place to make further use of the electronic and engineering research labs, 3-D printing technologies, virtual communication hall and state-of-the-art panoramic screen, green energy garden, and solar valley, via workshops on electrical circuits, coding, programming, robotics, and other manufacturing-related industries.
An even more impressive schedule of experience-based science workshops (10 per year), laboratory and factory tours (30 per year), science shows and cafés (10 per year), as well as science education seminars for school teachers (2 per year) has been established for the coming year 2015 in order to reach thousands from the affected areas. These events will be organised every month during the weekdays to ensure full class participation (40-50 students at a time), in addition to programs planned during long vacations and school breaks for motivated students. Finally, the launch of an ambitious Tohoku-Qatar Science Camp will soon be announced with an eye to fostering collaboration and scientific exchanges between young people from both countries.
Emphasising the importance of supporting education via such a modern facility, H.E. Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah expressed his desire for the campus to follow in the footsteps of the ten other successful projects being undertaken by the Qatar Friendship Fund:
“More so than in any other field, learning about science is something that comes by doing. It is therefore our hope that the Qatar Science Campus will help accompany students from Tohoku on their journey towards greater discovery and innovation, and ultimately lead to the generation of new ideas and the creation of new industries that can shape the future of Japan,” the Foreign Minister said.