At last I have experienced the crown jewel of the LBAT program, the string of corporate visits. On the first day we went to the Kitakyushu Eco Town. This was one of the foremost “eco parks”, a major research center for development of large and small scale sustainable technology. This park, rapidly developing, is home to countless types of alternative energy plants. Including wind farms, on land and over-sea, as well as large Algea pools, geothermal plants, green houses, solar panel complexes, and some of the earliest hydrogen fuel cell car refilling stations. This eco park was also home to many impressive research centers, where a lot of work is being done to lower everyday carbon missions and to find ways to harness carbon for electric power generation.
The following day we went to a Toyota production plant as well as a major Yaskawa Electronics research and business center. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside the production plant, but it was a sight I don’t think I will ever forget. It was the pinnacle of production efficiency, neat production lines, workers not wholly distinguishable from the robots they coexisted with, and more moving parts than the eyes could see. After our in depth tour we moved on to Yaskawa Electronics, where we toured through the impressive research exhibit displaying many high level robots capable of solving rubik’s cubes, outpacing human reflexes, and tirelessly performing very delicate assemblies of various produce. We then got to sit down with an employee and talk about company traditions, recent hiring trends, current research topics, etc. I personally asked about the application process, and was surprised to see that it was extremely general, warranting only a distinction between STEM or liberal arts as a collegiate background.
The last day we went to Kyushu University’s Hydrogen Research Lab as well as its Organic Electronics Laboratory. The former was very impressive. Japan is one of the leaders in the developing of ultra low emissions vehicles and is currently pioneering much of the field of hydrogen fuel cells. We enjoyed a very in depth lecture from one of the primary researchers in this research effort. We then talked to the organic electronics research leader who so happened to graduate from no other than Georgia Tech, where he spent an abashedly long 12 years completing his undergrad and PhD. He ran us through much of the work that he and his team are doing now and gave us tours through many of the labs at the university. Before parting ways he kindly gifted us snacks for our return trip home and left a truly good impression overall.
This trip was sweetened by many stays at hotels far too high in quality to befit us college students, but the delicious food was what kept us going through the many technically difficult Japanese tours, and the long days of exploration and fun.