An interview with KUAS students who won the IEEE TALE Student Research Competition

News Engineering 2021.02.17

In December 2020, KUAS Faculty of Engineering 1st year students Taisei Tanaka, Shinjiro Matayoshi, and Sena Yun participated in the Student Research Competition at the International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE). Organized under the auspices of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE*), the conference adopted the theme of “entering a new era of learning with innovative technology.” The three students proposed a real-time room occupancy monitoring system called “Akikomi” designed to help people find an available empty meeting space and avoid crowded rooms during the ongoing pandemic. We interviewed the three students who won first place in the undergraduate category.
* The IEEE is the world's largest technical professional organization in the fields of electrical, electronic, and information engineering, and technology standardization. TALE is the most influential international conference in the field of engineering education hosted by the IEEE Education Society in the Asia-Pacific region.
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― Congratulations on your success in the IEEE TALE Student Research Competition, undergraduate category. What was the initial background to creating “Akikomi”?

Tanaka: It all started when I wanted to make a mobile application during the summer vacation using what I learned in the spring semester class “Introduction to Design” where we studied mobile application design. I thought that it might lead to fewer cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 if it were possible to know how crowded a classroom is at a glance.

Matayoshi: At first, Tanaka and I worked on it together, but we could not finish the application using class time alone. At the recommendation of our instructor, Professor Liang, a student named Sena Yun — who is familiar with mobile application design — joined us.

Yun: After the fall semester started, the three of us met after class to discuss ideas little by little.

― Could you give some more details about the “Akikomi” service?

Tanaka: “Akikomi” is a smartphone service that makes it easy for anyone to check how crowded classrooms are at a glance, anytime, anywhere. Matayoshi, who graduated from a technical high school, knows a lot about sensors, so he prepared several kinds.

Matayoshi: To be specific, I am thinking of making full use of four devices for measurement: a Grid-EYE infrared sensor that can detect the temperature at the entrance of the room so that its condition can be accurately understood, an aerial ultrasonic sensor that can detect objects, a time-of-flight sensor that can detect the distance between subjects, and a high-definition Raspberry Pi video camera equipped with automatic control of functions such as exposure, white balance, and brightness.

Yun: The data sent from each device are received simultaneously by the mobile application, and you can see how crowded the room is on your smartphone. The app can't receive data from the sensors yet, but we would like to continue programming in parallel with installing the sensors.

― You really are working as a project team, exploiting each of your competencies. When did you begin preparing for IEEE TALE?

Tanaka: Well, we were working on implementing it in KUAS classrooms but we didn't intend to participate in IEEE TALE. Professor Liang suggested that we join the competition, and we actually decided to participate in IEEE TALE around November. There was only about a month left, so we hurried to make presentation materials.

Yun: In particular, it was very difficult to prove that this project was novel. I investigated by reading some related papers and was happy to discover that it was a new idea.

Matayoshi: In general you need to prepare large-scale equipment if you want to introduce a system of this kind to monitor how crowded classrooms are. However, our proposed application “Akikomi” uses lightweight IoT sensors and can be installed easily in various types of facility. In addition it is cheap and users can easily access the information with their smartphone. These aspects allowed us to show the originality of “Akikomi” in the presentation materials.

― I think that your presentation was given in English. Weren't you nervous?

Yun: The presentation felt normal because we always present in front of people in English in our classes.

Matayoshi: I agree. We always take classes in English, so we do not feel resistant to it.

Tanaka:  That’s true. However, the forum itself was held online, and we did our presentation in a virtual space using avatars. So we might not have felt nervous because the presentation was given indirectly, not face-to-face.

―Thank you very much.