Discovering new interdisciplinary research themes: Humanware Summer Camp 2013

September 29 and 30, 2013 KKR Hotel Biwako

Two days of exploration into new research fields mobilizing collective wisdom and knowledge

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On September 29 and 30, HWIP participants attended the Humanware Summer Camp 2013. Held with the aims of building camaraderie in the student body and unearthing new ideas for interdisciplinary research, the camp was organized and run entirely by the students themselves. On the first day, camp participants listed to lectures by specially appointed associate professors in HWIP, learning about their approaches to research and outlooks on life as well as the challenges and attractions of interdisciplinary research. These lectures, which included many reminiscences on real-life experience, proved extremely valuable for the attendees. Next up was a group activity where students discussed possibilities for interdisciplinary research. The group discussions uncovered many new ideas, but students also realized the difficulty of bringing these ideas to fruition. Ideas from different disciplinary backgrounds and standpoints collided and coalesced, and the allotted discussion time was reached before the participants knew it.

Showcasing a range of unique research topics

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On the afternoon of the second day, each group revealed the interdisciplinary research topics it had conceived. There were four in total: “dynamic opinion-gathering by group web searches modelled on inter-cellular communication”, “methods to minimize information transmission errors in collaborative tasks”, “simulation of power relations in group decision-making using fluctuation equations”, and “development of a seabed cleaning robot modelled on the musculoskeletal structure of a ray”. These are highly distinctive ideas that bring together knowledge from the fields of information science, biosciences, cognitive science, and robotics. We look forward to their ongoing development. The presentations were followed by a ceremony at which HWIP student Risa Sawada, who had worked as the camp coordinator called this very worthwhile two-day event to a close.

Comment from one of the student organizers:

This was the first student-organized event in HWIP. There were many hurdles to overcome at the planning stage, but with the help of the specially appointed associate professors in HWIP, administrative staff, and staff at the accommodation facility, we were able to run a successful camp. This experience has surely encouraged students to think more concretely about interdisciplinary research from now on. I look forward to planning more events like this in the future and helping to make HWIP an even more vibrant program.

(Risa Sawada, HWIP Events Team)

 Comment from a student participant:

In the group discussions, we dreamed up many big ideas, but found that most of them got rejected because they weren’t realistic enough. We also didn’t have any clear criteria for determining what might be “realistic”. Nevertheless, the discussion prompted me to think more carefully about the small steps required to give concrete shape to big ideas, and I’m sure this experience will prove useful in my research from now on. Another important benefit of this camp was the opportunity to introduce our research and learn more about what other students in the program are doing. I hope that our group can continue to work together on the interdisciplinary project we formulated at the camp, with a view to sharing the concrete outcomes of it one day.

(Masashi Yokota)