In Japan, Yamaha Motor conducts a range of different classes and workshops for children and young teenagers to convey the joy of
. These include: Discovering the Wonders of Boating, where participants learn about the principles that allow boats to float; the Wind-Powered Car Workshop, where kids build a car that moves forward into the wind; the Programming Class to learn the basics of programming using robot cars; and the Engine Disassembly/Assembly Workshop, which has been a popular fixture for over 20 years. In this issue, we introduce some uniquely Yamaha social contribution programs aimed at creating tomorrow's engineers.
The Engine Disassembly/Assembly Workshop is a hands-on class where participants take apart and reassemble a real engine while learning about the working mechanisms and principles, the names of parts and their respective roles, and more. The program was first started in 2002 by a group of volunteers at Yamaha Motor headquarters that called themselves the Omoshiro Engine Lab, and to date, around 14,000 children and their guardians have enjoyed this firsthand experience of Monozukuri
(creating products with an emphasis on craftsmanship and excellence).
The photo at the upper-right shows SAIKI, Naoto (Robotics Business Unit) teaching an elementary school student during one workshop. Saiki, who joined the company in 2022, was actually a participant himself back when he was 10 years old, and soon after becoming a Yamaha Motor employee, he joined the Omoshiro Engine Lab group, wishing to give back to the program he credits with kindling his interest in mechanical engineering.
"I took apart this engine for the first time in over ten years so that I could prepare myself to teach the kids, but even now as an adult, there are still lessons and realizations I've found, but it's a lot of fun at the same time," says Saiki. His words convey the sense of fulfillment he gets through helping with the program.
KOSUGI, Naoki (Automotive Development Section) is in his third year with Yamaha and is also a fellow workshop graduate. "I joined the class with my brother, who is four years older than me, but I may have just been getting in his way!" he recalls with a laugh. Kosugi is currently working as a volunteer in activities targeting university students, contributing to the development of future engineers in a different way from Saiki.
What both have in common is that their firsthand experiences fostered their interest in Monozukuri
and helped them decide what was for them at an impressionable age. They went on to sharpen their skills and expertise in their respective fields aspiring to become engineers since their school days, with Saiki working on omni-directional movement with robots and Kosugi's focus on controlling EV motors. Both continue to enjoy Monozukuri
in their job domains today.■Providing More Hands-On Learning Opportunities
In the Engine Disassembly/Assembly Workshop for junior high school students, the YBR125's engine is the "textbook." Participating students even get to fire up the engine themselves.
However, Yamaha Motor faced a dilemma: even if younger kids gained an interest in engines and motorcycles through their first workshop experience, by the time they reach 16 and are able to get a motorcycle license, that interest is likely to have faded away from no further follow-up. So, a more advanced version was started where older junior high school students could disassemble and reassemble a 125cc engine. This workshop has them mount an engine that they have put together with their own hands into a frame and then kickstarting it to close out the experience. Participants have commented on the Kando
* they felt when the engine fired up or that while they felt the work was tough, they had gained an understanding of how an engine works.
Twenty years ago, a falling interest in science and machines began to gain attention as a social issue in Japan. "I don't think there's that big a difference between children's curiosity before and today. If there is a difference to begin with, isn't it having more chances now to experience things firsthand?" It was with that thought at the time that employee volunteers started the Engine Disassembly/Assembly Workshop, and it seems it hit the mark.
In recent years and in line with the times, Yamaha Motor's Programming Class has been gaining popularity, in which children program small robot cars to follow a course following repeated trial and error. This too is another experiential program unique to a company that specializes in mobility.
*Kando is a Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value. In the popular Programming Class, children program small robot cars to run automatically and verify if their instructions were carried out correctly.
This is an obvious statement given that time never stops moving, but a 10-year-old will eventually turn 30 after a period of 20 years. In that time, some 14,000 children and their parents have participated in programs put on by the Omoshiro Engine Lab. Besides Kosugi-san and Saiki-san, I'm certain there are others active in the Monozukuri world who joined one of these classes growing up. And as the video above alludes to, it will become increasingly important for Monozukuri in the future that we nurture not only mechanical engineers but also system engineers.