2023 Activity Report vol.11:Osaka Institute of Technology

Activity Report of Open Application Program 2023 vol.11 (Course A)

SDGs education program: learning from traditional craft techniques

Report from Osaka Institute of Technology (OIT)

 With support from the Sakura Science Program, OIT's International Center invited students from Universiti Sains Malaysia for an international PBL (project‑based learning) program on Omiya Campus from September 10 to 16, 2023. The theme of the program was "SDGs education program: learning from traditional craft techniques." Students from Japan and Malaysia gained an understanding of the history of traditional craft techniques, the techniques themselves, and their challenges, and proposed initiatives from the perspective of their own fields of expertise for plans to achieve the SDGs with consideration for the environment and more.

 In the first half of the program, we held an orientation in which we offered an overall explanation of the project, and the participants introduced themselves and their universities and created friendships amongst themselves. Next, students from both universities gave presentations on traditional crafts in Japan and Malaysia, with a particular focus on dyeing and weaving, and exchanged opinions. During the presentation by Universiti Sains Malaysia, students from both universities paired up to experience applying color through batik (wax‑resist textile dyeing), a traditional Malaysian craft.

Activity Report Photo 1
Experience applying color through batik (wax‑resist textile dyeing), a traditional Malaysian craft
Students from OIT and Universiti Sains Malaysia formed pairs and created a single craftwork together

 After this, the students attended lectures given by faculty members and carried out experiments so they could gain an understanding of the molecular structures and characterization of the dyes used in craft dyeing from the perspective of industrial chemistry. Many different organic compounds are used in dyes; to understand the dyeing techniques that make use of chemical transformation phenomena such as oxidation‑reduction reactions, the students used the example of indigo, gaining an understanding of its molecular structure and learning that it displays hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties through oxidation and reduction, respectively, and that it is possible to use it as a dye thanks to the differences between these material properties. They then observed actual changes in the color of an indigo derivative using an oxidizing agent (the oxygen in the air) and a reducing agent (sugars). We were impressed by the earnest way the participants watched the color changes caused by the chemical reactions despite this being a simple experiment.

 In the second half of the program, the participants visited Tokushima Prefecture to experience traditional Japanese techniques in situ. There, they first visited the Awagami Factory's Hall of Awa Japanese Handmade Paper, and gained a further understanding of indigo‑dyed Japanese paper ("aizome washi"). One of the Malaysian students had actually studied how to make recycled paper using coconut shells, and another was planning to take up an internship in a Japanese paper‑making company, so they approached this experience of actually making paper with natural raw materials with considerable interest. They then visited the Aizumicho Historical Museum AINOYAKATA, where they deepened their understanding of traditional indigo dyeing by dyeing handkerchiefs. They demonstrated their understanding of each part of the process, perhaps matching their understanding of the chemical reactions from their experiments in the university with the techniques used in this traditional industry. The students also toured the historic soy sauce maker Fukujyu Shoyu and learned more about fermented foods in Japan. One of the Malaysian students had studied fermentation, so they observed the soy sauce production process and equipment with great interest. In addition, thanks to the kindness of the company president, they were able to experience how the taste changes depending on the process.

Activity Report Photo 2
Experiencing traditional indigo dyeing in Aizumicho Historical Museum AINOYAKATA, Tokushima Prefecture
Activity Report Photo 3
Learning about traditional fermentation techniques at the soy sauce maker Fukujyu Shoyu, and participating in a tasting experience

 After returning to Osaka, the students looked back at the content of the program and created presentations on the outcomes in groups. There was also a debriefing session. Through the program, the students were able to touch upon the history and challenges of traditional techniques in Japan and Malaysia, and deepen their understanding of the challenges and initiatives of the SDGs in their respective fields of expertise.

Activity Report Photo 4
The final presentations
Each team gave a presentation on what they learned through the program.

 Finally, we would like to sincerely thank the Sakura Science Program for the support we received. This program has given us the chance to develop academic exchange between Universiti Sains Malaysia and OIT in the future, and was also a valuable learning opportunity for the students.

Activity Report Photo 5
Group photo after the completion ceremony