Encouraging the Scientists of the Future to Spread Their Wings
-Supporting Science Education-

The Hitachi High-Tech Group uses the tabletop microscope, a key product incorporating the company’s core technology, to support science education. With young people drifting away from science now a topic of concern, ongoing efforts to get children more interested in science are being undertaken as an important part of the company’s CSR management. The efforts to support science education being developed at the company’s CSR section, at Hitachi High-Tech Fielding Corp., and at Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc. have attracted a lot of attention.

Utilizing the Advantages of the Easy-to-Use Tabletop Microscope

“These class visits are a game played in real earnest, every time. You never know what’s going to happen. You can’t let your attention stray for even a moment, until you capture the children’s attention.” The person making this comment is Daihei Terada, an acting manager in the CSR Division, CSR Promotion Group, who is engaged in efforts to promote science education. He takes the Tabletop Microscope to regions all over the country, spending his days showing children how to look at the microworld of insects and plants all around them.

Terada says, “The images that get the biggest response are mosquitos. Every child knows what it is like to be bitten by a mosquito. When they see this insect pest that they all know about close up, the children react with cries of ‘eww’ or ‘wow.’ When I hear these reactions I know that I have succeeded,” he says.

The great thing about the Tabletop Microscope is that it allows anybody to easily experience the minute world of the electron microscope. Hitachi High-Technologies is making full use of this device, which uses an ordinary 100-volt outlet and can be set up in just three minutes, for nationwide rollout of efforts to support science education. These efforts began in 2005, when the Tabletop Microscope first went on the market, and became an aspect of sales and service. At the request of a university professor who used one in his own work, the Tabletop Microscope made its appearance at a science hands-on event targeting children, hosted by an academic society. There it was used in demonstrations presenting the micro-world. Such events then expanded all across Japan, in science classrooms at museums and the like; visiting lectures at elementary, junior, and senior high schools; and touring exhibitions at “Super Science High Schools※1.” The scope grew to include multifaceted and diverse formats. To date, more than 36,000 persons have participated in these programs.

Terada recalls, “At first we were concerned that these efforts would not generate any profit, but the importance of CSR has come to be recognized by society and to be associated with policies for countering the drift away from science. Such activities are deeply significant for the company, and CSR has become an important strategic pillar that also generates growth.”

Widening the Circle of Science Education Support

An example of efforts to support science education is a program in Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, which is the birthplace of Dr. Bunya Tadano※2, the father of the Hitachi electron microscope. In 2009 the Iwanuma municipal board of education purchased a Tabletop Microscope. It is used at primary schools and the city library, something not yet seen anywhere else in Japan. Hitachi High-Technologies provides support for this program and has collaborated since 2011 in the “I Love Science Festival.” Atsushi Hama of the CSR Promotion Group remarked as follows:

“Since this is a nice environment that already has a Tabletop Microscope, we worked to develop an independent program that goes beyond simply using the microscope. We have a simple spectroscope for learning the principles of an aurora, and we make and launch rocket leaves shaped like maple seeds. And recently, in collaboration with Hitachi High-Tech Science Corp., we started a program using an X-ray fl uorescence measurement device.”

Hitachi High-Technologies occasionally utilizes such examples as templates for other projects. Meanwhile, the long-running class visits have now been extended to elementary and juniorhigh schools in Minato Ward, Tokyo, where the Head Office is located. The program has also been expanded as part of efforts to assist quake recovery. Class visits to primary schools in Fukushima prefecture have taken place since fiscal 2014. By fiscal 2016 the number of Tabletop Microscope in operation had increased from three to ten units.

“We are working to improve quality, so as to convey the pleasure of science to even more children. As seen in the collaboration with Hitachi High-Tech Science, we have used the technology assets of the group to strengthen planning. I would now like to try worldwide expansion in regions such as Asia,” says Terada with enthusiasm.

Class demonstration of the Tabletop Microscope
Class demonstration of the Tabletop Microscope
Hitachi TM3030 Tabletop Microscope utilized at HAMAGIN SPACE SCIENCE CENTER (Hitachi High-Tech GlobalTV)

Long and Narrow: Strength through Continuation

In 2001, as part of the commemorative events for its 35th anniversary, Hitachi High-Tech Fielding held a hands-on learning session using an electron microscope at the nearby Hanazono Elementary School in Shinjuku Ward. Since Hitachi High-Tech Fielding is a company that handles scientific equipment, concern about wanting to resolve the problem of children drifting away from science is deep-rooted. However, at first the reaction of the school was rather tepid. “They want to sell us equipment” was the skeptical reaction. Then, just when it looked like the idea would collapse, there was a new development. A curriculum coordinator looking for a “comprehensive learning” theme expressed interest in the plan. After that, the discussion proceeded much more smoothly. Noriko Yamamoto of the General Affairs Dept., who was one of those in charge of the program at that time, recalls what happened.

“We became involved in lessons for 4th graders, and at the teacher’s suggestion we decided to try eating school lunch together to break down the tensions with the children.”

As a result, the class was a great success. The program became established as a Hitachi High-Tech Fielding outreach activity to the local community. This year, 2016, is the 15th year this long-term project has been running. The target school age changed partway through the program, but activities have continued without a pause. Recently, with the cooperation of Fumio Nagata, an experienced expert affiliated with Hitachi Ltd. and Hitachi High-Tech Science, it has been possible to add interpretations that are just a little different. Asuka Hasegawa of the Electromagnetic Instruments Dept. in charge of operating the electron microscope gave her impressions of the program, as follows:

“There are children who come running with wide-eyed interest, as if they had just discovered a new toy. When I see them coming, I am reminded of that pure feeling of really loving science.”

Yamamoto concurred, saying, “After the class has ended, there are sometimes children who come up with surprisingly advanced questions. I certainly hope to see some kids get inspired to travel the road of science.”

Electron microscope hands-on session
Electron microscope hands-on session at Hanazono Elementary School

HTA’s Educational Outreach Program by Tabletop Microscope

Initiatives to support science education are expanding beyond Japan to the international arena.

In 2011 Hitachi High Technologies America (HTA), as a member of an NPO established as part of the government’s efforts of STEM program, initiated the “Educational Outreach Program” in the United States to contribute to the local community. In addition to demonstrations of the Tabletop Microscope at schools and science museums that enable teachers and students to experience the nano-world, there are also seminars for teachers. Since September 2011 a total of 500 events thru January 2016 have been held throughout the United States as part of the program. As senior executive Robert Gordon puts it, “Promotional activities involving the Tabletop Microscope scanning electron microscope and efforts to support science education for children are both part of our mission.” The program was selected to receive the Inspiration of the Year Global Award, which recognizes efforts to elevate the value of the Hitachi brand, at the Americas Regional Grand Prix (2015).

Children experiencing the micro-world
Children experiencing the micro-world