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School of Science Homecoming Day: Science wonderland for a family experience

  • Hiromi Yokoyama (Deputy Head of the Office of Communication,
    Associate Professor of Science Communication)
Figure 1

Audience enjoyed the quiz competition produced by Prof. Satoshi Murayama

"OK. What is the answer among these three? Give me a rock, scissors, or paper!" called out Hitoshi Murayama, director of the Kavli IPMU (Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe), to the audience, which ranged from elementary school children to senior citizens in their 70s. All hands shot up together. When the answer was announced, I could hear cries of: "Too bad!" or "Yes!"

On Saturday, 20 September 2012, the School of Science Homecoming Day was held — as a family event, starting this year — and it targeted children from the upper grades of elementary school, based on an idea suggested by Hiroaki Aihara, Dean of the School. We invited not only the children and grandchildren of our alumni but also elementary school children who live near the University to the event. Thanks to the family-oriented conception, we received a lot of applications and on the day of the event we were very busy taking care of the participants. "I have never seen Koshiba Hall filled with as many young people as today," said the Dean and Prof. Hiroyuki Takeda, chair of the Public Relations Committee of the School, in unison.

The event started with a 30-minute lecture, "Exploring the mystery of the birth of the universe," which was delivered by Shoji Asai, an Associate Professor at the Department of Physics. The well-prepared lecture was reinforced with an experiment that was so wonderful that it held the elementary school children's attention from beginning to end. In order to explain the Higgs particle, Prof. Asai used a square-shaped clay board with the corner ripped off. He rolled an iron ball on across the board to show the audience what mass is, stopping the ball from time to time with a magnet held under the board.

After Prof. Asai's lecture, there was a quiz on the universe designed by Prof. Murayama, and 15 winners were presented with prizes that included autographed books of Prof. Murayama or Prof. Asai, which excited the audience.

Along with the lecture and the quiz competition, the booths for the "Viewing fossils and stones side by side," and "Making tsunamis," which were set up at the lobby of Koshiba Hall, were very popular. In particular, children became glued to the Tsunami Booth, which was full of participants all of the time. These booths were produced by Takaaki Yokoyama, an associate professor at the Department of Earth and Planetary Science.

This event was organized by the Office of Communication and was prepared mainly by the administrative staff at the General Affairs Office. For the School, this is the first time to hold an event targeted for elementary school children, and it was given a high appraisal by all who attended. Therefore, we would like to continue holding events like this in the future.