Tsukuba: Japan’s “Science City”

Today we had the opportunity to visit three different exhibition facilities in Tsukuba. Tsukuba is a small city about 45 min from Tokyo. It is known as a center for research and innovation as it accommodates about 19000 researchers (40% of Japan’s total). Our visit included the Science Square Tsukuba and the Geological Museum by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) as well as the exhibition center of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

In the Science Square Tsukuba we learned about the history and the basic activities of AIST. The national institute was established in 2001 with the union of more than 15 research institutes of Japan. Some of the parent institutions of AIST have a history of 100 years with several accomplishments upon three different pillars of technological innovations: life technology, green technology and manufacturing. Regarding the life technology, the main focus of AIST is in robots and technology to build a healthy and safe life for the future. It was fun to meet and interact with PARO, a healing robotic seal with artificial intelligence, able to assist and adapt to the needs of patients with dementia symptoms. On our topic, we were able to navigate among the research outcomes of AIST for non-destructive inspection technology which helps performing inspections of bridges in spaces that are too small for conventional inspections. Significantly interesting were also the developments of AIST for the production of 3D geological maps and the mapping of tsunami deposits in order to assist the assessment of the ground for preventing disasters when designing future structures. The last interesting solution in the field of the life technology and the latest release of AIST (2018), is the HRP – 5P robot that is able to perform construction works. HRP – 5P could be seen as an answer to the Japan’s crisis of limited skilled workers that was discovered during the macro and meso reports.

In the fields of green technology and manufacturing, among the exhibits interesting for civil engineers, was the development of new construction materials. The “Ecocarat” is using the porous of ceramics to perform humidity controlling of the interior of a building and the “Claist” is a film made out of clay with high heat-resistance and gas barrier properties than the conventional materials. Another product which has already been applied in some futuristic civil engineering solutions, is the photo-responsive gel that has the ability to self-repair surface damages.

After the Science Square Tsukuba we visited the geological museum by the geological survey of Japan (GSJ). There we were able to interact with several installations and refresh our trivia knowledge about how volcanos form and erupt, what is the distribution of the road infrastructure, water supply or sewage facilities and schools in Japan but also see and read about the properties of many rocks, minerals and fossils. Surely, the geology course of the basic civil engineering program would be way more interesting if given in a museum similar to this.

The last excursion of the day was in the exhibition center of JAXA. There we were able to get familiar with the activities of the japanese aerospace agency. Apart from the contribution of the Japanese to the exploration of the space and the operation of the International Space Station, we were able to see and explore all the activities of the JAXA for the utilization of Earth and Environment Observation. In these developments some of the most important applications for GIS and environmental monitoring are based, in order to receive a precise image of the earth and the environmental conditions on a daily basis.