Focusing on UC-win/Road as a New Area of Spatial Information:
VR Lesson has started in the Class with Our Staff as Special Associate Professor
The Institute of National Colleges of Technology, Japan (The Institute) establishes and operates KOSEN, National collages of technology, in all over the nation. In its operational goals and objectives (duration: from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2014), the Institute describes its policy in relation with securing outstanding faculty as "to employ people having excellent capability as educators such as those who produced satisfactory results in private companies". It also describes its concept that the Institute helps to strengthen the collaborative framework with industries etc.
As part of this, an extracurricular lesson "VR (virtual reality) Course" started in October 2010 at Fukui National College of Technology (Fukui Kosen).
his issue picks up Fukui Kosen. We focus in particular on the "Advanced Research Center for Regional Cooperation" established to promote joint research and academic exchanges between the college and the local community, "Department of Civil Engineering" that has focused on diversified and emergent possibilities brought about by VR technologies and used VR tools in classes, as well as "Spatial Information Engineering Lab.", led by Associate Professor Kazuhiko Tsujino of the school.
We also interviewed the 5th graders of Dept. of Civil Engineering who are actually taking the "VR Lesson".
Fukui National College of Technology (Fukui Kosen) is a national, advanced educational institution that provides junior high school graduates with five continuous years of technical education and nurture them into research and development engineers. Fukui Kosen was founded in 1965. Under partial amendment of the National School Inauguration Law, it was originally established with temporary school buildings in Takefu city, Fukui Pref., providing three courses: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and industrial chemistry courses.
In the next year of 1966, the School moved into newly constructed school buildings in Geshicho, Sabae as it is known today. The old building was closed. Civil Engineering Course was established in 1970, and Department of Electronics and Information Engineering in 1988. In 1993, Department of Civil Engineering was reorganized into Department of (Environmental Urban) Civil Engineering. In 1995, Department of Industrial Chemistry was reorganized into Department of Chemistry and Biology Engineering. In 1998, the Advanced Engineering Course was established with Production System Engineering and Environment System Engineering.
Under the Act on the Institute of National Colleges of Technology, Independent Administrative Agency (promulgated and put into effect in 2003), Fukui Kosen was established and started operation under the Institute since April 2004 with other national colleges of technology.
In 2005, Department of the Electrical Engineering was reorganized into Department of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering. In the same year, the Japan Accreditation Board accredited the educational program of Production System Engineering of the Advanced Course of Fukui Kosen for Engineering Education, JABEE, in the field for General and Combined Engineering for the first time among the universities in the Fukui Pref.
Through these transitions, Fukui Kosen has 5 main departments including Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Electronics and Information Engineering, Chemistry and Biology Engineering, and Civil Engineering. Above these educational courses of Kosen over 5 years (Associate degree course) is specialized, 2-year Advanced Engineering Course (bachelor's degree courses) consisting of Production System Engineering Course and Environmental System Engineering Course.
The quota of a class in each department is 40, and the total number one grade is 200 for all five departments. The quota of the Advanced Course is 20 (12 for Production system Engineering and 8 for Environmental System Engineering). In addition to the school buildings, indoor / outdoor athletic fields and library, the campus of about 100,000m2 also has a dormitory. As of May 2010, 1,011 students in total of 1st to 5th graders in the main courses and 57 students in total of 1st and 2nd graders in the Advanced Course are on the register roll.
In 1991, Fukui Kosen Hi-Tech Education and Research Center was established not only to enhance the education and research system in the school but also to promote joint research and technical consultation with regional companies. In 2004, the Regional Cooperative Laboratory for traditional industry was established. After the Hi-Tech Education and Research Center was reorganized into the Advanced Research Center for Regional Cooperation in April 2005, it has been performing various action plans aiming at “regional-based development of human resources and technical support”, for example, establishment of Regional Cooperative Laboratory and Satellite Lab (a rental laboratory space for companies).
The Center reorganized its research areas in 2006 into 7 sections of “Regional Alliance & Culture”, “Environment & Biology”, “Energy”, “Safety & Disaster Prevention”, “Information & Telecommunications”, “Material & Processing”, and “Measurement & Control” to make it easier to understand and consult, making full preparations to receive users. This helps to improve regional contribution. In addition, Entrepreneur Support Center was established in the Center to support rearing entrepreneurs and business creation.
Department of Mechanical Engineering aims to cultivate students who have synthetic ability as an engineer by learning mechanism of machinery and practice product manufacturing, while Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering aims to cultivate creative engineers who have knowledge about state-of-the-art technologies covering wide ranges of electricity and electronics. Department of Electronics and Information Engineering aims to foster engineers capable of solve problems by way of both software and hardware. Department of Chemistry and Biology Engineering aims to educate students who learn material engineering and biological engineering in a chemical point of view and are able to make the best use of chemistry. In contrast, Department of Civil Engineering aims to educate engineers who create environmental cities, infrastructure, and architecture for residents in order to realize a sustainable recycling-oriented society.
“It is our strong point that every graduate can get a job without fail unless he or she sticks to a particular one.” Says Associate Professor Kazuhiko Tsujino, referring to one of the advantages of learning at Fukui Kosen, adding that this might also be true about other Kosen, national technical colleges.
For example, though the situation around civil engineering is particularly severe, the graduates of Dept. of Civil Engineering of the school in March 2011 got more than 200 job offers from in and outside the Pref. Since about half of the students of the Dept. get jobs in public agencies and the other half continue studying after leaving school, the job offer rate for one student exceeds 10. One of the five departments had the offer rate of over 20. According to the school, the ratio of students of the main courses receiving tentative job offers is 100%.
When a student enters a higher-level school, he or she enrolls into the 3rd grade of a university or enters the advanced course of Kosen. When completing the advanced course, the student can get a bachelor’s degree from National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation, and also enter into a graduate school.
Regarding the two courses that compose the Advanced Engineering Course, Production System Engineering Course is based on the three Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Electronics and Information Engineering; while Environment System Engineering Course is based on Departments of Chemistry and Biology Engineering and Civil Engineering.
The Department of Civil Engineering not only provides major subjects in the fields of structure, planning, and environment, but also builds up unique education to develop creativity such as ‘Science for Design and Manufacturing’ (1st grade) and 'Surveying Contest' (2nd grade), and 'Building a City Using VR' (3rd grade). The Dept. also puts emphasis on external activities such as participation in 'National Technical College Design Competition' (e.g. Bridge Contest), 'Natural Environment School (Eco Lab)', Class on Demand, joint projects with Society of Architects and Building Engineers.
The Dept. is continuously evolving to meet the needs of the changing society. When the former Dept. of Civil Engineering was reorganized into the present Dept. of (Environmental Urban) Civil Engineering, curriculums in the fields of environment and information were added to that of civil engineering instructed so far. Since 2007 academic year, a curriculum in the field of architecture has been expanded so that students can be qualified for taking an examination of first-class registered architects.
"My major is sediment disasters. In my research, using satellite image data and such, firstly the occurrence point of a sediment disaster is found. Then dangerous places are narrowed down by analyzing the geological characteristics, landforms, or vegetation."
Associate Professor Kazuhiko Tsujino is in charge of the subjects such as surveying and applied surveying, spatial information engineering, design and drawings for environmental urban engineering, experiments and training for environmental urban engineering. Tsujino Lab is also making research on disasters including sediment disasters as its core, using up-to-date surveying tools and remote sensing data. Recently, a study commissioned by the local municipality is ongoing to identify the behavioral pattern of wild animals by putting GPS (Global Positioning System) collars and apply them to precautions against wildlife damage.
It was several years ago that Associate Professor Kazuhiko Tsujino first experienced UC-win/Road, 3D real-time VR software of FORUM8. He says that when he visited INTEX OSAKA with his students to take part in the Bridge Contest, he was interested in it at the first sight of its demonstration in our booth exhibited in the fair held at the same time.
"Partly because I was teaching CAD at school, I was interested in VR technologies from the beginning."
Later, when it was asked to propose a project showing the attractiveness of Department of Civil Engineering to the new students on the headmaster's discretionary expenses, he applied for it with his own point of view that he wanted to use UC-win/Road as a tool to help educate students who have new knowledge of VR. In 2006, his proposal was adopted. Through preparation period, the class using UC-win/Road started from "Experiments and Training for Environmental Urban Engineering" in the first term of 2007.
The Experiments and Training class is one of the experience and training subjects. "Experiments and Training for Environmental Urban Engineering I" for the 2nd grade is a training class for surveying providing a lecture followed by the students' activities in groups actually creating maps in the school. In contrast, classes for the 3rd grade (II) and the 4th grade (III) provide various themes such as material experiments and earthquake engineering at the same time. Each class is two hours and a half long, held once a week. Students work on one theme for 2 weeks (five hours in total) as a group, receiving practical training and submit reports, then moving on to another theme in turn. Use of UC-win/Road was incorporated as one of the themes. Though the subject covers the whole year, different themes are set for the first and last terms respectively.
With promotion of manufacturing products as its vision, Fukui Kosen provides education of manufacturing products in all Departments of the main course and the Advanced Engineering Course. In recent years, information network technology (ICT) based on the Internet is becoming far more important, and ICT is essential for product manufacturing technology. The Advanced Research Center for Regional Cooperation of the School applied for projects of "Program for Making the Best Use of Corporate Engineers and others" by the Institute of National Colleges of Technology with a concept of practicing emerging technologies such as ICT and VR in addition to the conventional product manufacturing and basic technologies through joint education (title: Development of joint education to fuse ICT and the local communities).
Then in March 2010, Associate Professor Kazuhiko Tsujino proposed to invite a specialist from a private company as an approach to joint education of companies and Kosen in the program, aiming also to learn VR techniques himself. Ideally speaking, he wanted to have the instructor from the graduate of Kosen, but thinking, "VR is a new technology and the specialist in FORUM8 must be the right person because we had already used FORUM8's UC-win/Road", he consulted with the head of the Advanced Research Center for Regional Cooperation, and his plan was admitted.
When it was expected that the proposal would be adopted, he asked FORUM8 to select a suitable instructor. Nahomi Kannonji, VR Support Group of the Osaka Branch was recommended. In September of the same year, she was assigned to Special Associate Professor of the school.
In the last term of this year (October 2010 to February 2011), an extracurricular class "VR Lesson" is held biweekly, two courses at a time, 10 times in total (table 1).
We interviewed 6 students, who are in the 5th grade of the Dept. of Civil Engineering and have already decided the companies to join or schools to continue studying. All of them had already experienced UC-win/Road in the class "Experiments and Training for Environmental Urban Engineering II" for the 3rd grade (in the first term of 2008). Basically, they used UC-win/Road in "VR Lesson" in this term after two years since then.
"Compared with the experiments and training when there was constraints of time, the instructor teaches us from the basic to application by taking enough time in this lesson", says Mr. Hiroto Kawasaki in the Sanitary Engineering Lab and others, to list one out of several advantages of this lesson.
Mr. Akihiko Sato (Urban and Architectural Design Lab) thinks that UC-win/Road is an effective tool for presentation that is easy to understand visually. To improve usability, he also expects that a function will be added to go back to the previous status with easy operation.
"To tell the truth, this is the third time that I use UC-win/Road," says Mr. Naoki Emi (Spatial Information Engineering Lab). Since he realized the fascinating aspects of VR through the experiments and training, he created 3D models using Google SketchUp for his graduation research at first. Then after the opening of this course, he touched UC-win/Road again and knew the 3D models he had been creating could be incorporated into UC-win/Road, deciding to integrate the data created with each tools.
Mr. Kenta Asakura, Mr. Shunya Domae, and Mr. Daisuke Kawaguchi were also working on graduation research assignment on their own in the same Spatial Information Engineering Lab. They cooperated with Mr. Emi's work, and Mr. Kawaguchi talked about the significance of producing one VR work in collaboration.
Mr. Naoki Emi, who is going to work in the field of electricity, and Mr. Shunya Domae, who is going to work in the field of waterworks, keep using of VR for making simulation or presentation in mind for the engineering works they will take charge of in the future.
Similarly, those who are going to enter into a higher-level school also want to keep on exploring possibilities of using VR in relation with their majors. Mr. Akihiko Sato and Mr. Daisuke Kawaguchi are going to construction and architecture-related college, and Mr. Hiroto Kawasaki will enter into the Advanced Engineering Course of Fukui Kosen, Environment System Engineering course.
"My interest in creating a town made me choose this course," says Mr. Kenta Asakura, who is going to work in the field of printing. Knowing the joy of creating a town in a virtual space again, he wants to make such knowledge an asset for the future, though it seems to be irrelevant to the field.
Associate Professor Kazuhiko Tsujino considers applying for continuing the project under the Advanced Research Center for Regional Cooperation next year. With this in mind, he says, "Our goal is to be able to take part in VR contest next year." In addition, in the Advanced Engineering Course, he is willing to examine application of VR technology using UC-win/Road in the subjects he teaches such as Information engineering for creativity.
（Interviewed & written by Takashi Ikeno）