Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Day 4: From SONY to Science Super Schools, Japan leads the way into the future of science - post by Gary Tilley

A pond in Tokyo
A wetter, cooler morning, though still beautiful.

On Wednesday we all awoke to the sound of rain, which was a welcome relief to the sticky atmosphere of Tokyo's early autumn. I enjoyed an early coffee at our little corner shop and watched the cosmopolitan black-suited business brigade make their way to their offices in massive droves. There are so many people here and they all move in such an orderly and polite way, and keep their enormous city clean and tidy. Everything works, and it works all the time! It is an amazing city full of productive life.

Our group made its way down to the international headquarters of SONY as VIP guests to go behind the scenes for a special showcasing of the emerging technology SONY are producing at "The Square". Here, we were treated to a display that left us truly awestruck by the technology that is out there. SONY has supported teacher education for quite some time and it was a privilege to see their cutting edge work.

Robyn Aitken outside SONY HQ
Robyn made sure we were in the right place.
We witnessed a promo of SONY's video work in 4K across four 200inch integrated screens that blew away preconceptions of quality of image and definition. Vic loved the fast cars that seemed to be entering the same space we were currently occupying! The mountain scenes made you a part of the spectacle and other sports appeared to be happening whilst you were on court with world famous players. How they did it is beyond me, but it impressed everyone.

We were then given shown some famous musicians playing...including Carlos Santana alongside his signed guitar! That impressed many, but I liked the ukulele of Jake Shimaloukuro, whilst others preferred Michael Jackson or Beyoncé. The real standout was a singer called Curiosity. The reason she stood out was because she sang in a 3D theatre, where she felt so close and so loud that the wind blowing through her hair hit us along with the smell of her breath. We think that was among the first 4D concerts. Remarkable!

As if these displays hadn't left us speechless, Danielle was given the controls of the Play Station 4 and managed to release 15 or so little virtual reality robots who become so interfering we were forced to pat them on the head, kick them out of the way, and eventually Vic had to vacuum them up. They were ever so cute, but Vic did have a job to do!

We walked through several stunning displays of recent SONY films where original props could be handled. We took a liking to Peter Parker's Spider-Man outfit, and Gary was about to try it on when Vic discovered some Breaking Bad action and wanted to start putting some of the very real props to some "questionable" use!

We moved into the football stadium, which had 3D cut outs of football players shooting for goal on the synthetic grass pitch and goals ready to receive the ball. 4k film was being used in the stadium and it put the spectator in amongst the players where they could see, with clarity, the expressions on the faces of players, and see and hear the audience. This sporting experience is bound to be state of the art very soon.

The SONY Electronics Cafe took everyone's fancy, with cameras of all sizes and tablets that could survive underwater and connect to any other device imaginable. A small ball-like speaker shook the building when connected to a smart phone. A smartband and its app made a pedometer look ordinary and when you connected that to your smart watch, you had the world as your oyster! All seven of us put our resumes in to SONY just to be with the new technology.

Following a lovely lunch in SONY's staff cafeteria, we moved on to the Ulrawa Dairidi Super Science Girls High School. Some students presented their winning ISEF entries and we had a valuable discussion with the students and teachers about their science work. We watched a lesson conducted by our very own Sarah Chapman, who wowed the audience with her expertise and style.

Sarah Chapman teaching a class at Ulwara Super Science Girls High School
One of Australia's own Super Science Girls, Sarah conducted a fantastic, hands-on lesson at Ulwara.

Ulwara students conducting the Skittles experiment
The Skittles experiment
The universal language of science meets the universal language of Skittles!

The school, whilst very different to ours in Australia, worked to its national standards while also being a special Super Science School for girls, set up to encourage girls into science and engineering. Base on the figures we were shown it was working very well, with high levels of science university options being taken up by its students.

The ASTA team with staff from Ulwara
A class at Ulwara
The dedicated staff at Ulwara give their students the tools and support they need to pursue careers in science.

By evening the rain had totally cleared and we were able to see some of the famous department stores of Downtown Tokyo. We managed to resist the $7,100 scarves and ties and shirts well into the hundreds of dollars. Beautiful to look at, lovely to hold but...well you know the rest! Stunning but not for me.

For dinner, we found a great little eatery where they served beer in a glass boot! No matter how hard the girls tried those glass slippers just did not fit. Danielle tried to 'boot up' her computer and Leah was offered 'a boot in the…' but refused. Finally, we had to give Robin 'the boot' when her jokes got too corny. Talk turned to the politics of science education, and the needs of our science community. Plans and strategies were made and forgotten by those with too many boots to deal with.

It was one of those days you can only dream of. The encounter with technology of the most extraordinary kind, students and staff politely and productively working to their best and setting a shining example to all teachers, our Sarah showing the way with another one of her great demonstration lessons, and pumpkin ice cream to finish. Twenty out of ten, we all agreed. ASTA has done a great job making this happen and we are doing our best to experience another cultures systems and see ways that we can improve our practice, engage our students and the broader community with science and science communication. Way to go team!

Tokyo at night
Tokyo at night.

1 comment:

  1. Wished I was there at SONY Central, sounds amazing! Glad to hear that is was a 20 out of 10 day. Long may these exchanges continue and with the support of the Australia - Japan Foundation and the interest being shown by our diplomatic team in Tokyo. I would urge everyone to put their hand up to tai part in this amazing opportunity put together by ASTA.