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.
• 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.”
• 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 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.”