Science & Engineering Education

LETS: Learn Engineering with Tokyo University Students


LETS is a team of science and engineering educators that began as a project-based course officially named Science Understanding Promotion Project (工学理解促進プロジェクト), which had been offered at the University of Tokyo until the Winter of 2015. The course was a part of the Creative Engineering Project series that provide UTokyo undergrads and grad students hands-on experiences on a variety of engineering-related topics. In LETS, students would form groups of 4-5, where each group designed a unique science lesson on the topic of their choice. The lessons would be eventually delivered to elementary school children in the local neighborhood twice in a semester. One distinctive feature of LETS was a lesson design strategy based on learning sciences; we would primarily use How People Learn as a textbook to grasp how crystallization of knowledge occurs in the learning process, and reflect it into our design choices, in order to respect pre-existing knowledge of the children and promote their knowledge transfer. I joined LETS in 2013 as a junior student, then served as the TA in the Summer of 2015.

LETS Meeting 1 LETS Meeting 2

As a project-based course, LETS had two learning goals. One was for the children in public elementary schools to get exposed to cool STEM topics, learning how basic principles lead to sophisticated engineering technology that is nowadays fundamental to our daily life. The other was for the UTokyo students to gain deeper understanding of the basic yet complex scientific concepts, to the extent that they could readily communicate them with people whose pre-existing knowledge is very different from theirs. Through this experience the students would obtain skills to explain technical matters without using too much jargon or intricate equations.

LETS lesson on structures LETS lesson on colors

Over the years we offered a variety of lessons, whose topics include design of earthquake-resistant structures, surprising relationship between heat transfer and warm clothes, secrets of colors induced by light, and so on. Although LETS is not offered as a course anymore, we still volunteer to organize science workshops on occasion.

Star Watching Class in Oshika

Oshika Star-Watching Class

In December 2013, I volunteered with other members of UTokyo Astronomy Club to organize a stargazing event at Oshika Family Travel Village Auto Camping Ground in the Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi, Japan. The event was intended for children and their parents living in the Peninsula, which is one of the many areas in the Tohoku region that were severely hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami in March 2011.

We brought from Tokyo multiple astronomical telescopes to the site to show nebulae and the Solar planets in the winter sky, which is indeed one of the clearest and the darkest skies that you could find in the mainland Japan, more than ideal for stargazing. To supplement the outdoor activity, a few UTokyo students majoring in Astronomy gave an introductory lecture and quizzes about the stars and the galaxies.

The event was supported by JEN, a non-governmental organization that was offering humanitarian support in Oshika at that time. You can find more details in their blog post.