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Toshiba’s Tomodachi and Gabriela Clossick

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In August of this year, a young girl – Gabriela Clossick – a resident of Coral Gables and senior in high school at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, participated in 2014 Toshiba’s TOMODACHI Science & Technology Leadership Academy.

Tomodachi in Japanese means ‘Friends’. Eight bright young students, ranging from 8 -12 grades attended a unique cross-cultural exchange program in Tokyo where they worked together with Japanese students, teachers and engineers to develop solutions for disaster-resilient, smart communities of the future.

Considering what is fast approaching the Miami-Dade area in terms of sea-level rise, it’s a good thing one of our own attended, don’t you think?

More about the program

Groups are part of the inaugural TOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy that was announced by Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in December 2013. The first of its kind, the week-long program is designed to foster closer ties between American and Japanese participants, to nurture a strong sense of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) literacy, and to inspire the use of science and technology to address some of the world's most complex issues.

With guidance from Bill Nye the Science Guy, teachers from the National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba engineers, the students worked in teams to address challenges facing cities that have recently experienced major disasters - New Orleans, New York City, Ishinomaki-shi (Japan), and Kinshasa (Congo). This year’s emphasis on building resilient communities echoes Toshiba’s longtime disaster-recovery commitment.

I had opportunity to speak with Miz Fischer – the Toshiba executive – who was born in Japan but was educated and spent substantial time in the both the USA and Great Britain. She told me the program is funded by High-Technology company Toshiba and strives to enlighten young minds from different cultures by introducing them into real-life problem solving situations as well as engineering design processes with Toshiba engineers and teachers. The week long trip to Japan yielded some potential solutions for the following cities.

  • New Orleans – To battle the city’s constant threat of inundation, students suggested installing a “seigyu” (holy cow) flooding control system developed in Japan 500 years ago, as well as adding a hydro generator and battery to produce energy.
  • New York City – When asked to provide new sources of energy and a new transportation system for New York City, students creatively proposed replacing the city’s famous subway system with hovercrafts and monorails, and turning its tracks and stations into a huge underground reservoir.
  • Ishinomaki-shi – Students presented solutions for this Japanese coastal town that was devastated by the March 11 tsunami, which include a double walled barrier to protect the town from future tsunamis.
  • Kinshasa – To create a stable water supply and control flooding in the city, students advised developing Community Water Centers across the city, not only to deliver potable water source but to support development of many other services, from hygiene to education.

In my conversation with Gabriella, she told me she was highly fascinated with STEM research and psychology. And as she described her ‘Concentric Circle’ design of a sustainable city, I was drawn in from her concept. It looks like she’s a natural for Civil Engineering.

I do want to point out as well, Gabriella discussed some ideas about sea-level rise here in Dade County, but no true solutions were presented.

Still, I am very encouraged to hear of Gabriella’s trip, the cultural exchange and what I term being ‘Infected with Inspiration’. And a big thank you goes out to Toshiba’s efforts in allowing the opportunity for these bright young minds.

Stay safe, guys and gals.

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