2 Japanese students, 4 days and 40,000 Lego bricks

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2 Japanese students, 4 days and 40,000 Lego bricks

Julie Marcillat

For almost a week, the lobby of the ITER Headquarters building was occupied by two special guests. Surrounded by mountains of boxes and thousands of brightly coloured bricks, Taishi Sugiyama and Kaishi Sakane from Kyoto University had four days to build an ITER Tokamak ... from 40,000 Lego bricks!

On the fourth day, on time and on budget, the young Japanese students from Kyoto University presented their work to ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot (right) and Director of Communication Laban Coblentz. (Click to view larger version...)
On the fourth day, on time and on budget, the young Japanese students from Kyoto University presented their work to ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot (right) and Director of Communication Laban Coblentz.
Passionate about nuclear fusion, Taishi, 24, and Kaishi 25, are also big Lego fans. They are active members of Kyoto University's Lego club and have experience building smaller Lego models of the ITER Tokamak. Their previous realization, displayed at the ITER stand at last year's Fusion Energy Conference in Kyoto, was one of the principal points of interest.

The experience gave wings to the Japanese students' ambition. Why not come to France to build a Lego model of the Tokamak,in the very place where the machine will actually be built?

In order to finance their project, they participated in the Kyoto University students challenge contest SPEC (Student Projects for Enhancing Creativity)—an event aimed at enhancing student creativity and encouraging contact between industrial companies and the university. Student teams present projects to the jury, and the winners walk away with the funds to realize them.

Combining a passion for Lego with one for fusion, Taishi, 24, and Kaishi, 25, set out on an ambitious task: building an ITER Tokamak in four days ... with 40,000 Lego bricks. (Click to view larger version...)
Combining a passion for Lego with one for fusion, Taishi, 24, and Kaishi, 25, set out on an ambitious task: building an ITER Tokamak in four days ... with 40,000 Lego bricks.
Taishi and Kaishi's proposal was among the 6 (out of 13) winning projects. Their travel expenses and hotel accommodation fees were funded by the University and the way was open for the two students to live a unique experience.

After four intensive days, the Japanese duo succeeded in building a 1/40th scale Tokamak mockup. "We believe in nuclear fusion," says Kaishi Sakane. "As everybody knows the creative potential of Lego bricks, we thought: why not use them in a way that promotes ITER and nuclear fusion?"

When asked about their overall feelings after this challenging and unique week at ITER, the students confessed that they still didn't realize it was over. "We were not certain that we could deliver on time," the students admitted. "Many staff members dropped by to say hello and take pictures. On the last day, some parts of the mockup fell down during our lunch break ... giving us some extra stress. But we succeeded and we are very proud of our achievement!"

"It is now our turn to wish good luck to the ITER team in building the real Tokamak," smiles Taishi. "If we can do it with Lego bricks, you can do it for real!"

Taishi Sugiyama and Kaishi Sakane, from Kyoto University (Konishi Laboratory, Institute of Advanced Energy), are both studying neutronics at the Master's level.


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