Sendai High School Students Visit UCR to Learn About STEM Research

Japanese high school students from Sendai, Japan, visited Riverside for five days as part of a STEM collaboration between the two sister cities

Sendai students at interactive universe exhibit

Sendai students grimace as they “taste” the universe by sipping saltwater. Michael J. Elderman

RIVERSIDE, Calif ( — High school students from Sendai, Japan visited UC Riverside as part of an ongoing exchange program for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach between Japan and the United States.

The students stayed in Riverside March 20 through the 24 to learn about UCR’s STEM research and opportunities with local Riverside students.The city of Riverside, praised by many organizations for having one of the best sister city programs in the country, has been forging close ties with Sendai, its sister city in Japan, for more than 50 years. The program for the visiting high school students was a result of collaboration between UCR, the Riverside STEM Academy (RSA) and Tohoku University in Sendai.

Many of the activities and schedules were organized by RSA, a Riverside Unified School District middle/high school that focuses on STEM learning. Last year, UCR and RSA hosted a similar event, during which time a different group of Sendai high school students visited Riverside to learn about STEM research.

Mario De Leo Winkler, postdoctoral scholar in Physics and Astrobiology, sets up a telescope

Mario De Leo Winkler, postdoctoral scholar in physics and astrobiology, smiles as he sets up a telescope for the Sendai students. Michael J. Elderman

In total, 15 high school students, four mentoring university students and five supervising staff enjoyed a weeklong stay in Riverside that included visits to UCR, Mayor Rusty Bailey’s office, the historic Harada House and various STEM-related sites in Riverside. They stayed with host families from the Riverside STEM Academy.

The program that brought the Sendai high school students to Riverside is called Exploring Germination and Growth for Young Scientists (EGGS). It is a program for Japanese high school students run by Tohoku University through funding from the Japanese government. High school students from various regions in Japan, specifically chosen for their interest in STEM fields, are selected to take part in the EGGS program.

UCR grad student distributes pins and buttons

A UCR graduate student hands out buttons during an exhibit for the Sendai students. Michael J. Elderman

The EGGS program is a joint project between Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and Tohoku University to educate talented high school students with laboratory-based education in a university setting. These students take courses and do research work at labs in Tohoku University. The final stage of this experience is a STEM education trip abroad. The 15 high school students from Sendai were chosen out of 150 students to travel abroad to learn about international STEM opportunities.

The students chose Riverside as their choice destination over Cambridge, England, as a result of the program’s success in the previous year.

Sarah Simpson, analyst in UCR’s earth sciences department, and Reiko Sato, lecturer in UCR’s comparative literature and foreign language department, coordinated the visit, recruited volunteers, provided translation and set up opportunities for them to see how STEM research is conducted at UC Riverside.

Sendai Student Looking at Fossils

Sendai Student examine fossils in the Earth Sciences department.conducted at UCR. During their stay, the high school students participated in activities hosted by the entomology, geology, physics and astronomy departments. Michael J. Elderman

Some of the exhibits included:

  • A fossil station, where students were able to hold and examine dinosaur teeth and skull fragments, an ancient horse jaw, fossilized insects, leaves, sediments and rocks exclusive to California
  • An interactive universe station, where students were able to “see, smell, taste and touch” the universe by interacting with isolated elements that comprise the building blocks of the universe
  • A telescope station where Mario De Leo Winkler, a postdoctoral scholar in physics and astronomy who has been involved in STEM outreach for more than two years, showed students solar flares on the sun
  • An earthquake station where students could simulate an earthquake and learn how to read a seismogram, a device that reads tremors in the ground to anticipate earthquakes
  • A NASA-sponsored button-making station that allowed students to make various pins and buttons to keep as souvenirs
  • A “sea level limbo” station where students learned how the game of limbo can serve as a model for rising sea levels caused by global warming and other environmental factors

Throughout their time at UCR, the high school students were able to gain insight into STEM research and better understand American culture through their interactions with UCR researchers and their RSA host families.

“We really enjoyed the experience with the Japanese students,” said Nivendita Kanrar, an RSA student leader who accompanied the students during their stay. “They learned a lot about life here in the US, the American cultural experience and STEM opportunities. We also learned a lot from them about life in Japan, their educational system and a lot about the students themselves. RSA students, especially host families, formed a strong bond with their Japanese students and still keep in contact with them through social media.”

A group of high school students from Sendai, Japan visits UCR

A group of high school students from Sendai, Japan visited UCR on March 23, 2016 to learn about STEM research.
Michael J. Elderman

For more information about the program, please contact Sarah Simpson at or (951) 827-3106.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6049

Additional Contacts

Sarah Simpson
Tel: (951) 827-3106

Reiko Sato
Tel: (951) 827-2765

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