IBM Japan Osaka Science Museum
IBM volunteers (left to right)
Shigeki Moriguchi, Shotaro
Shiroma and Yuko
Matsumoto at the Osaka
Science Museum under the
gaze of Gakutensoku.

Only at the Osaka Science Museum can you meet Gakutensoku, the mother of all robots in Japan—the country with the largest number of operational robots in the world.

Made in 1929 and rebuilt in 2008, Gakutensoku sits in the lobby; its name translated into English is a fitting description for what IBM volunteers have helped young visitors do at the museum since 2006: “learn from the laws of nature.”

The IBM team supports the museum’s Junior Science Club and received a 2017 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award for its sustained effort to raise interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Give it a Try

Shigeki Moriguchi-san loves science. So, it was a good match in 2009 when he read a request on the IBM Volunteers’ website describing volunteer opportunities at the Osaka Science Museum.

“I joined the volunteer team nine years ago,” says Moriguchi-san, “And became the team lead in 2015 when the former leader, Ken Inoue-san, retired.”

Started under Inoue-san’s leadership, and now under Moriguchi-san, IBM volunteers have planned and conducted TryScience experiment classes for members of the Junior Science Club six times a year since 2006.

TryScience provides lessons, strategies, and tutorials that teachers and volunteers can use with students in grades 5 through 12 to increase their interest and appreciation in STEM.

Every year, IBM volunteers come together to learn various TryScience lessons and lead approximately 60 children in activities at the museum.

In 2017, Moriguchi-san teamed with six other IBM volunteers who joined him in accepting the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award: Misao Ishikawa, Weiye Li, Yuko Matsumoto, Taroh Nozawa, Michiaki Ogawa and Shotaro Shiroma.

“There are about 60 to 70 children, so it is impossible to handle it all by myself,” says Moriguchi-san. “It is only because of our talented teammates that I can continue this activity. I thank each one for spending their valuable time supporting this project.”

Nearly 4,500 children have joined the activities over the years, with support from more than 700 other IBM and non-IBM volunteers.

Good science, great volunteers

Moriguchi-san’s role as the team lead is to help manage the relationship with the Osaka Science Museum and the IBM Corporate Citizenship team, recruit volunteers, prepare tools for the activities and lead activity days.

“The museum determines which TryScience activities will be part of the curriculum for the year, and then the volunteers prepare those lessons,” says Moriguchi-san. “Last year they chose ‘Aluminum Boats’ about buoyancy, ‘Yacht Cars’ about propulsion and an original activity created for Japan called ‘Secret Order.’ Some years the museum selects as many as six experiments.”

Moriguchi-san says that Secret Order was a very well received activity by the students.

“The activity teaches the principle of digital image transmission, but it shows the expression of admiration and surprise when the students understand it leads to the display of the current personal computer and smartphone,” he says.

While the TryScience experiments are known for their simplicity and effectiveness at teaching STEM topics, the readiness, proficiency and enthusiasm of the volunteers are equally important.

The IBM volunteers for the Junior Science Club at the Osaka Museum spend time rehearsing and practicing the activities before they get in front of their young audience.

Processes have been established to provide a high-quality experience for the students: pre-activity rehearsals are held, presentation style for easy comprehension is emphasized, post-activity evaluation sessions take place, and content is enhanced based on student input.

“There can be as many as six different experiments, and since the same volunteers do not always participate, and we have first-time volunteers, it’s important that we truly know how to perform the activities,” says Moriguchi-san. “We will rehearse to incorporate previous points of reflection and listen to advice from people familiar with science to make it a better class.”

Yet, inevitability, Moriguchi-san says, the children often come up with ideas that the adults didn’t think of—such as connecting straws to minimize friction in the balloon rocket experiment or using the smallest beads possible to increase the quantity that will fit in the aluminum boat project.

Moriguchi-san believes the overall program has succeeded for so long because the time needed at the museum is not a lot, the number of children and volunteers is well coordinated, and IBM’s support is a good match for what the Osaka Science Museum needs.

But there is something more that he admits.

“What we are doing is not difficult. Anyone can do it. It’s science and children like it,” he says. “It is a pleasure to see the children enjoying themselves.”

The IBM volunteers from Japan are among 12 other IBM teams and individuals who are recipients of the thirteenth annual IBM Volunteer Excellence Award. The award is recognition from IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty and is the highest form of global volunteer recognition given by the company to employees.

Join the conversation. Tag your tweets with #IBMVolunteers, #SkillsBuild and follow us .

About these stories

Read about IBMers whose volunteer efforts are improving communities around the world.

Activity Kits

IBM’s volunteer Activity Kits include everything you need for a range of activities.