31 Students Selected for Third Year of ROCKET ProjectOpening ceremony and first seminar

Group photo of the 31 students selected for the project’s third year
Opening ceremony
An opening ceremony and the first seminar for the third year of the ROCKET Project were held on December 19 at the University of Tokyo’s historic Yasuda Auditorium. The ROCKET Project seeks out elementary and middle school-aged children who display talent, but have difficulty adjusting to today’s educational environment and avoid going to school, and provides them with a new venue for studying that is neither a home nor a school. For the project’s third year, 31 students were selected as “scholar candidates” from among more than 500 applicants. The opening ceremony and first seminar were open to the public, and approximately 500 people attended. The seminar used a popular video game for a virtual-reality presentation of recent renovations carried out on the Yasuda Auditorium.

Multimedia opening ceremony

ROCKET director Kenryu Nakamura welcomes the audience in a humorous skit to begin the opening ceremony
The opening ceremony began with a musical fanfare and a computer graphic image projected onto a large screen. Miniature rockets buzzed around Tokyo and eventually entered the front door of the Yasuda Auditorium. At that moment, with another fanfare, Kenryu Nakamura, a professor at RCAST and director of the ROCKET Project, appeared on stage dressed as an astronaut, together with several junior astronauts, to welcome the audience. After a short skit to liven the atmosphere, the project’s sponsors spoke to the audience.
Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation
RCAST director Ryohei Kanzaki
Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, noted that there are many children with amazing talents, and their parents no doubt want them to go to school and become proficient in subjects like math, science, Japanese, music, and physical education. Nevertheless, society is diversifying, and while people who can do all of these things are still needed, the time has come where children who have a specific interest should be allowed to pursue that interest. He expressed his hope that the project would give these children the opportunity to pursue their own interests with confidence.RCAST’s director, Ryohei Kanzaki, noted that the center brings together many people with unique talents and would support the ROCKET scholar candidates, and encouraged them to do their best. Next, Yasuyuki Higuchi, chairman of Microsoft Japan, noted that software makes many things possible, and that software and information technology can help people with disabilities do things they otherwise would not be able to do. He also mentioned that since November 2015, Microsoft has been adapting its strength in games to the area of education. The last speaker was Kazunobu Asada of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who expressed his hope that the ROCKET Project would blaze a new trail in the field of education. These speakers were followed by a slide presentation to introduce the project’s background and content. Professor Nakamura explained that the new class of scholar candidates would be divided into two groups: those with interests in many different things, and those with a strong interest in one particular field like social sciences, fine arts, physics, or mathematics.

Using video games in the real world

Seminar leaders Manabu Chiba (left) and Junko Taguchi
The ceremony was followed by a seminar on the subject of making use of a love of video games, and specifically using the game “Minecraft” to revitalize cultural properties, led by Manabu Chiba, a vice president of the University of Tokyo, and Junko Taguchi, a lecturer at the University of Tokyo and ROCKET program coordinator. Professor Nakamura began the seminar by noting that video games are connected to the real world, and that the seminar would demonstrate how things learned in the virtual world can be used in the real world. Professor Chiba, who was in charge of renovations made to the Yasuda Auditorium in 2015, explained the renovations, while Ms. Taguchi played the role of “Minecraft architect,” using the video game to recreate the construction. Ms. Taguchi used Minecraft projected onto a large screen to give an aerial view of the auditorium’s construction, and noted that today many specialists are creating 3D information of buildings and cities. She then challenged the students to try to recreate the Yasuda Auditorium and other parts of the University of Tokyo campus using Minecraft themselves. The seminar concluded with Professor Chiba using slides to show how the reconstruction work to reinforce the auditorium’s earthquake resistance was carried out while making every effort to preserve and respect the intention of the original architects and builders.

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Communications Department The Nippon Foundation