Bulletin of Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology
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06 Masaki Takahashi 2 Mentor’s lecture revolutionized my awareness.

You joined the System Design Engineering Department of Keio University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, right?
      Yes. To tell you the truth, I was one of the first students who were admitted to the then newly established System Design Engineering Department. There was a description on the department’s brochure: “To create systems geared to the forthcoming society, knowledge from both mechanical and electrical studies is required. As such, the department aims to foster talents capable of designing, analyzing and evaluating systems.” Without any mental resistance, I could agree to the concept of designing an overall system by combining knowledge from different fields of study. I may have been somewhat attracted to the word “Design” itself, which sounded “cool” to me.
      When I was a freshman, this newly born department was not equipped with everything. But we students enjoyed the privilege of being taught by marvelous teachers who lectured us with great enthusiasm and ingenuity, which more than made up for shortage of equipment. In particular, lectures on dynamics and control engineering were so impressive that they revolutionized my awareness. My supervisor, Professor Kazuo Yoshida, was responsible for these lectures. He was kind enough to explain, in an easy-to-understand way, that mathematics and physics, which I had studied at high school, and the laws of dynamics I was then going to learn at Keio could be used as useful tools for society and were actually being applied to various business and industrial forefronts.
      For example, there is a control technology to protect bridges over straits from strong winds and rain and to protect buildings against earthquakes. This technology in turn requires modeling of bridges or buildings. I still remember Prof. Yoshida explaining to us that such modeling was based on physics formulas that I had learned during my high school days, which startled me. His remark led me to become aware anew that those physics problems which I solved with a casual sense of enjoying puzzles as a high school boy were serving as the foundation of creating bridges and buildings.
Mathematics and physics – the fields where I was merely interested in solving problems – actually have much to do with our daily lives . . . it was a surprising aspect of physics. This experience motivated me to know more about physics.

Professor Yoshida’s remarks brought a drastic turnaround in your impressions about physics, right?
      During his first classroom lecture, Prof. Yoshida showed us a video footage of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the State of Washington, U.S.A. This bridge collapsed soon after completion due to wind, strong but within the presumed velocity limit. This vivid visual record of the accident made the bridge famous. Many of you may still remember it. It was the very moment I became strongly aware of the role dynamics and control technology play.
      The impressions I received at that time were so strong that, when the time came for me as a junior to decide which lab to choose from, I visited Prof. Yoshida’s lab and, after observing what was going on, decided to study under Prof. Yoshida. When giving lectures, he was usually soft spoken and did his best to explain things in an easy-to-understand way. But when it comes to research activities, he was very serious, giving sharp and pinpoint criticism and advice as necessary. Now finding myself in a position to guide students, I would like to follow Prof. Yoshida’s example. But it’s difficult and I’m striving from day to day.
photo      Time after time I was told by Prof. Yoshida, “Always remember to visit the spot where the thing in question is taking place, and confirm what’s happening personally.” This attitude, he said, would free yourself from self-satisfied assumption, allowing you to see the reality without prejudice and grasp the essence of the problem you’re addressing. Facing a problem and grasping its essence is actually very difficult. But when I engage in research activity on the guidance/transport robot project, for example, I’m trying to conduct on-site experiments repeatedly and listen to what users and observers say. I usually visit such places not by myself but together with representatives of the equipment manufacturer and students and have a discussion meeting. This approach often brings us a variety of ripple effects – bringing to light problems unnoticed in the lab work and stimulating new requests and ideas relating to R&D, among others.
      To my great regret, Prof. Yoshida passed away in 2008; I can no longer listen to his valuable views. What I can do now is to do my best to approach Prof. Yoshida’s level by following his advice.

 

 

1 Became interested in dynamics and control engineering for the first time as a university student.
2 Mentor’s lecture revolutionized my awareness.
3 Guiding students by emphasizing interaction with the outside world.
Profile Masaki Takahashi With control engineering and intelligent control engineering as his specialties, Mr. Takahashi uses model base control technology to address research themes relating to mechanical control, intelligent robotics and space engineering, among others. He obtained a doctor’s degree at Keio University Graduate School of Science and Technology in 2004. He became a postdoctoral research fellow at Keio University in 2004, a research associate at Keio’s Faculty of Science and Technology in 2005, an assistant professor in 2007, and the current position as an associate professor in 2009.
 
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