Chicago Shimpo
Nambu Award Luncheon Cerebrates Contributions of JASC, ISO


• The companies and individuals supporting the Nambu Award, a competition program to promote science among Illinois high school students, were commemorated during the luncheon held on November 26 at Comfort Inn in Arlington Heights.
• The Nambu Award was established in 2012 to acknowledge the achievement of Dr. Yoichiro Nambu, a University of Chicago professor and the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics. With the purpose of encouraging Illinois high school students to learn and enjoy science, it selects two schools in a science competition each year as the winners to receive $2,000 in scholarship. The Nambu Committee, consisting of the Japan America Society of Chicago (“JASC”) and its nine member companies, operates the program in collaboration with the Illinois Science Olympiad (“ISO”), a state-level tournament of a nation-wide science competition.

• Ursula Ahern, Barb Figlewicz, John Figlewicz, Carl Garrison and Joe Simmons of the ISO were present at the luncheon, alongside the representatives of the nine JASC member companies sponsoring the award. Mitsukuni Baba (Executive Director), Edward Grant (Director & former President), and Erika Kono (Director of Administration & Logistics) represented the JASC.
• (The nine corporate sponsors in the Nambu Committee are: I.T.A., Inc.; Komatsu America Corp.; Meiji Corporation; Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc.; Molex Inc.; Nippon Sharyo Manufacturing, LLC; Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal U.S.A., Inc.; Okaya USA, Inc.; and Omron Management Center of America, Inc.)

• According to JASC’s Baba, Dr. Nambu spoke at the JASC more than once after he received the Nobel Prize. The JASC then discussed with the member corporations some kind of commemorative event, and soon came a decision to establish an award bearing Dr. Nambu’s name to encourage Illinois high school students to study science. The subsequent collaboration with the ISO resulted in the launch of the Nambu Award.

• Ed Grant, who was the JASC president at the time of the Nambu Award launch, stressed that the group of people there have been key to make the award alive and successful for so many Illinois students.
• “We feel very honored that Dr. Nambu’s name is associated with this award,” he said. “The Nambu Committee and the ISO have played a big role and I appreciate their effort and support.”

• In appreciation of the JASC’s effort to encourage Illinois students for learning, ISO’s Ahern presented a commemorative plaque to the organization and the Nambu Committee member corporations.

Science Olympiad

• A team of 15 high school students (may include some junior high school students) compete in the Science Olympiad, a nation-wide science competition since 1984. Participating teams choose one subject from 23 science subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics, and compete in that category for their knowledge and creativity.
• The competition begins in September on the invitational level, which advances to the regional, state and then national. Top two winners of the state competition meet at the national competition. The invitational level is an unofficial competition hosted by a local high school or college and often provides a venue for students to test their skill level.
• In the ISO, participants are divided into two groups: “AA,” the group for more competitive schools; and “A” for less competitive schools. Both groups compete in the same 23 categories while they have more chance to rank in the schools of the same size. The ISO announces the State Final result for overall ranking, as well as ranking by group “AA” and “A.”

Nambu Award

• The Nambu Award is awarded to the two winning teams of the Science Olympiad in Illinois.
• The Nambu Committee members vote their best three teams within the total categories of 23, and the teams with the highest score, one from group “AA” and one from group “A,” are selected for winners.
• A winning school can’t be the same school in the previous three years. If that happens, the second-ranked school in that category gets to be the winner.
• The winning schools receive a $2,000 scholarship and a plaque. Each member of the winning team also receives a medal, Dr. Nambu’s message and his curriculum vitae. The winning teams are invited to the JASC’s Annual Dinner where the award is presented.

• Ursula Ahern, Regional Director of Science Olympiad and Supervisor of the events on the state and national level, noted that this kind of competition provides the students an opportunity to “not just depend on themselves but also learn that they are part of the team.”
• They understand that it’s not their individual success that matters but team cooperation that achieves success. An opportunity for students of different ages to work together is something they don’t have in their everyday school life, she said.

• John Figlewicz, the ISO’s first State Director, shared the benefits he saw in the Science Olympiad.
• He’s seen the students in the competition get excited for their project, while they had no clue what was going to happen. They would come to school even at night, trying to figure out their project. Watching them in that stage, Figlewicz often caught the “Got it!” moment that they were apparently hit by understanding and new ideas.
• Also, even when they are competing against other teams of other schools, they often help each other out, for anything missing or whatever the problem.
• Watching the students help each other is one of the great experiences in the ISO for Figlewicz.

• Garrison, also from the ISO, spoke of his experience of organizing invitation tournaments in Illinois and said he was amazed that the participating students get to school by 5:45 a.m. on Saturday morning to “do science.”

• Ahern added: “We are so excited because we are not only impacting our future scientists, but also impacting future scientist collaborations, team builders.”
• A case in point is a project from last year’s ISO competition.
• A team was building a mass truck vehicle that was supposed to push a cup 3 meters forward and then go back to a certain amount of distance behind the starting line.
• When their model failed to get back to the designated point (2 centimeters short), the team switched their attention to making a light helicopter model that’s propelled by rubber band. After successful tests, they broke the model during a tune-up the day before the state competition.
• The students hurriedly repaired the model, and their helicopter flew in the air for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. This greatly exceeded their expectations and the team won second place in Illinois.

• “I would say, from the Science Olympiad perspective, this tells you about the program,” Ahern continued. “It’s about the skills that grow, about knowing each other, and about knowing that they can do it if they learn from their failures and are willing to take risks, even right before the competition.”


In appreciation of the JASC’s effort to encourage Illinois students for learning, ISO’s Ahern (R) presents a commemorative plaque to the organization and the Nambu Committee member corporations.


Nambu Award and a medal


A light helicopter made by a student team flew in the air for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.