2015 Open Campus Welcomes Curious Minds Young and Old

Thousands of visitors enjoyed hands-on activities, lectures and demonstrations at the 2015 OIST Open Campus.

Thousands of people of all ages attended the 2015 Open Campus at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate School on Sunday, Feb. 1.

The annual event welcomes the public to come explore the world of science through hands-on activities, demonstrations, lectures and tours offered by OIST faculty, students and staff.

Visitors got a behind-the-scenes look at research labs and high-tech equipment, peered through microscopes at everyday items like oranges and onions, and ate ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

Many kids navigated underwater robots using a traditional video game controller to see what it is like for researchers in the Marine Biophysics Unit to explore the ocean. “It was fun,” said Shimon Uechi, a 12 year old from Nakijin Village in northern Okinawa. “It was harder than I thought.”

His mother brought Shimon and his 10-year-old sister Mana to Open Campus for the first time this year. “They are interested in science, but don’t really heave opportunities to participate in this kind of event,” Nariko Uechi said. “This is a really good opportunity.”

Inside one of the labs, about 50 children learned how to program using a language called Scratch.

“I am always happy to make kids interested in programming,” said Irina Reshodko, a PhD student from Kazakhstan who helped teach the 45-minute classes in English and Japanese.

In a lecture about mathematics, Professor Robert Sinclair shared what it’s like to take classes at graduate school, and encouraged the students in the audience to think critically.

“Good students don’t believe their teachers,” Sinclair said. “At OIST, I am very happy when my students don’t agree with me. If I am wrong, then we have a good future for science because it means my students were right.”

While the halls were filled with children, adults were equally inspired after walking through labs where researchers actually work.

“I wish I could come study here,” said Lindsay Cromp, who brought her husband and two elementary-school-age children from Kadena Air Base.

Open Campus is the biggest public event of the year at OIST and helps fulfill its mission to give back to the greater Okinawa community.

“It’s important to contribute to Okinawa through education,” said OIST Community Relations Manager Tomohiko Teruya.

OIST professors and students agreed.

“It’s always fun to share our passion for biology with the general public,” said Prof. Evan Economo, just as a young boy looking through 3D glasses at an ant graphic exclaimed “Sugoi!” which means “awesome” in Japanese.

Browse an album of 2015 Open Campus photos.

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