JOHOR BAHRU – 10 Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) students and researchers were involved in a tour to Japan under the Sakura Science Plan hosted by Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) in February this year.

This programme which started from 14 until 22nd February 2020 was initiated by Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Ahmad ‘Athif Mohd Faudzi from the Faculty of Engineering, UTM and was advised and led by SIT lecturers, Assoc. Prof. Maeda Shingo and Prof. Naoki Hosoya.

Dr. Ahmad Athif said that the participants consisted of three research assistants, five postgraduate students, and two undergraduate students who were involved in actuator and automation research activities.

“The programme was sponsored by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) which covered the fees for transportation, accommodation and daily allowance for logistics and food for all participants.

“This initiative has offered young students and researchers from Asian countries for a short-term visit to Japan while acting as a bridge for research exchange between Japan and its partner countries,” said Dr. Athif.

The nine days of the exchange programme were aimed to introduce research facilities and activities conducted by SIT’s experts in the area of soft materials to be applied in robotics while providing an opportunity to the participants to experience campus life in the host university by having a training on laboratory work for a simple experiment.

“On the first day of the programme, the students introduced themselves, their background of the study as well as their current position inside the home university.

“The participants were also brought to visit the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, simply known as the Miraikan and had an exposure on the latest technology in Japan including watching ASIMO robot show, the world’s most advanced humanoid robot,” said Dr. Athif.

On the next day, all participants visited the research facilities inside the institute to observe and participate in an experiment with SIT’s student, while also being introduced to the latest technology for soft robotics material.

“Apart from visiting the SIT research facilities, the UTM delegation was also brought on a campus tour to witness the learning facilities such as the library, cafeteria, printing, convenience stores as well as a number of other facilities available on campus.

“To fulfil the content of the theme, various activities were held by SIT such as presentation, discussion and laboratory visit to establish more opportunity for a collaborative partnership in the field of soft robotics,” he said.

A number of laboratories have been visited through this session such as Prof. Maeda Shingo’s lab on soft material, Prof. Naoki Hosoya’s lab on the optic, Prof. Chinthaka Premachandra’s lab on electronic and Prof. Nobuto Matsuhira’s lab on control.

Looking for collaborations in different research areas or exploring a new area of technology has always been beneficial for students as well as for the institutions thus, during the sharing session, Dr. Ahmad Athif invited researchers, students, and professors from SIT to visit UTM for the purpose of exploring more interesting collaboration work.

Besides the academic visits at SIT, the participants were given the opportunity to have an industrial visit to one of the world’s largest corporations with over 20,000 products and 320,000 employees worldwide, Hitachi Construction Machinery Corporation.

The visited area covered the manufacturing process of designing and developing until the commercialization process. Through this programme, visitors can obtain the exposure of real processes in the Japanese industry and witness advanced systems in technology, management, and safety.

Morever, the participants also had the chance to visit other famous universities such as Chuo University, SIT Omiya Campus, University of Tokyo, and Tokyo Institute of Technology.

“While in Tokyo Institute of Technology, we were hosted by Prof. Koichi Suzumori, one of the pioneers of soft robotics technology.

“Besides showing his laboratories, Prof. Suzumori also provided us with a sharing session where our students shared some of their work with this Japanese professor as well as witnessing the work that was done by him and his students,” said Dr. Athif.

Dr. Athif further said that these opportunities would be able to help the participants to explore several more advanced technologies as well as to further extend the international exchange and networking.

“While visiting the universities, all participants got to see different projects and research done by the professors and the students.

“This program was a great platform for knowledge sharing and collaborative networking while promoting science and technology between Japan and Malaysia,” said Dr. Athif.

 

UTM delegates at SIT main building.

UTM delegates wearing traditional Japanese outfit, Yukata

UTM delegates conducting experiments at SIT (above and below)

The presentation, discussion, and laboratories visit of UTM delegates at SIT

Prof. Suzumori of Tokyo Institute of Technology (left) with Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Athif during the visit

UTM delegates visiting lab at Tokyo Institute of Technology