“Award Ceremony for the 60th Natural-Scientific Observation Contest for Elementary and Junior High School Students

Event Name Award Ceremony for the 60th Natural-Scientific Observation Contest for Elementary and Junior High School Students
Organizer The Mainichi Newspapers, Society for Natural-Scientific Observation
Sponsorship Olympus Corporation
Date 22 February, 2020
Venue Tokyo / Japan
Participants 19 student recipients (top contestants), 2 teachers (representing schools receiving Outstanding School Awards), 10 judges and guests, and many others involved in the competition (10,851 projects were submitted for consideration)
Event Outline

Since 1960, Olympus has supported the Natural-Scientific Observation Contest, a nationwide science project competition open to first through ninth graders, in order to get young minds interested in science. Originally launched as a competition for science projects that involved microscope observations, this year the Contest received 10,851 entries from elementary and junior high school students across the nation.

Each year, the top contestants receive Olympus microscopes or digital cameras, as well as certificates of achievement and an award ceremony held in their honor. The award ceremony for the 60th contest was held at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. It began with some general remarks on this year’s entries by Dr. Kimiko Kozawa, D.Eng., representing the panel of judges, followed by a special lecture by mathematician Dr. Jin Akiyama, D.Sc., who also served on the panel. The recipients of the highest honor – the Minister of Education Awards – gave award acceptance speeches.

“It was a great pleasure and honor to review each entry, although judging them was no easy task,” Dr. Kozawa told the audience. “I hope the contestants will keep up their good work with strong yet flexible minds and a willingness to take up new challenges.” For the special lecture, Dr. Akiyama gave a speech titled “A Message to Young Scientists.” The student recipients were enthralled by Dr. Akiyama’s presentation, which emphasized unconventional and innovative thinking and the importance of using totally new perspectives when encountering a difficult issue.

Karen Iwagami, a sixth grader from Ishikawa Prefecture, received a Minister of Education Award (Elementary School Category) for her project “Development of an Electric Fan Inspired by the Veins on Maple Seeds”. Having learned about the veins that occur on the surface of a maple seed, Iwagami used this knowledge to develop a fan capable of producing air flows that reach a wider area. “I’ll keep working on more development projects that take advantage of the forces of nature,” Iwagami told the audience. Manami Hirahara, an eighth grader from Saitama Prefecture, also won a Minister of Education Award (Junior High School Category). Hirahara’s project, titled “Up Close and Personal with the Ecology of Pill Bugs!?”, examines the ecology of pill bugs from diverse perspectives. “To communicate my findings to others, I took great pains to condense the massive amount of data I collected into easy-to-understand content,” Hirahara explained. “In spite of many difficulties, I managed to complete my study with the help of the people around me, and I’ve learned the importance of perseverance to achieve whatever goal I may have in the future without giving up.”

For over half a century, the Contest has helped nurture scientists and researchers, with multiple contestants and award recipients citing the Contest as a crucial event in deciding their career paths. Olympus will continue to actively support the Contest, especially in light of the importance placed in recent years on industry-government-academia collaboration for youth education.

Award Ceremony Venue; National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation "Miraikan"

Judges' General Remarks by Dr. Kozawa

Giving "The Minister of Education Awards (Elementary School Category)"

Giving "The Minister of Education Awards (Junior High School Category)"

The Minister of Education Awards Recipient; Karen Iwagami (a Sixth Grader)

Iwagami's Project

The Minister of Education Awards Recipient; Manami Hirahara (an Eighth Grader)

Hirahara's Project

Special Lecture by Dr. Akiyama (1)

Special Lecture by Dr. Akiyama (2)

Student Recipients Listen to the Special Lecture Given by Dr. Akiyama

Commemorative Photo of the Student Recipients