In this context, Robotics helped me creating common discussion points for the integration of all team members, achieving interesting results, which would have not been possible without the contributions of different disciplines as well as different cultures. In fact, Robotics per se is a strongly multidisciplinary and an extremely broad (horizontal) discipline: it borrows from its core disciplines (such as Mechanics, Electronics, and Computer Science) but also it needs Physics/Mathematics, Automation and Control, Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence; moreover, current researches in robotics need to expand the range of activities to include Logic/Linguistics, Neuroscience/Psychology, Biology/Physiology, Philosophy/Literature, Natural History/Anthropology, Art/Design, and so on. Therefore Robotics is a unique combination of many scientific disciplines, whose fields of applications are broadening more and more. As such, Robotics de facto unifies the so-called “two cultures”, Science and Humanities. With its multidisciplinary and active characteristics, Robotics better prepares the students to tackle the global challenges they will face during their life.
As an educator, I am strongly emphasizing active learning during all my courses, with activities organized in groups, discussion both in class as well as at home, and practical problem solving. My students, using Robotics as a teaching tool, are exposed to simplified versions of real-case problems, and they need to apply their theoretical knowledge to find a practical solution. This – as testified by the abundant literature on learning and learning technologies – fixes and strengthens their understanding of the subjects, in particular the most basic ones, such as mathematics and physics. Moreover, this active learning approach allows the students to learn how to work in team as well as individually; it also strengthens their ability to uncover and solve problems, stimulates their creative thinking, and also improve their communication skills, both written and oral.
By using Robotics I can show the students not only the basic concepts for each discipline; but also their practical implementations in real life; it also allows me to show them what the current basic topics can lead to, with some videos or picture about the latest research results of my team as well as from other leading teams in the world. The use of Robotics as a teaching tool naturally guides the students to master the basic academic skills (mathematics, geometry, physics, electronics, and so on); moreover, it is a tremendous motivational agent, as the students are both intrigued and fascinated by the possibilities that are waiting for them in the senior years.
One common problem when teaching to people coming from different nations, especially at undergraduate level, is that their ability to understand English, and to express themselves in a language which is not their mother tongue, can be limited. To overcome this problem and simplify the learning process of the students I have been videorecording all my lectures, and made them available to the student for off-line checking. In this way the students are able to repeat my lectures over and over when something was not clear, thus improving their understanding. In due time I plan to use the “flipped classroom” model, so that the students can check the lecture in advance at home, and we can use the class time for discussion, exercises, and so on. In this way I can spend more time interacting with my students instead of just lecturing them.
The success of my teaching style among the students is testified by the fact that the students are recommending my courses to their colleagues; moreover, some students are taking the course again, even if they already got the credits last year!
Summary of teaching experience
- 3+ years of teaching experience in English as Associate Professor of Robotics at ICSEP - International Center for Science and Engineering Programs, Faculty of Science and Engineering of Waseda University. Students of ICSEP come from all over the world
- 3+ years of teaching experience in English as Visiting Associate Professor at the E-JUST - Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology in Alexandria, Egypt (JICA expert on Robotics).
- 4+ years of teaching experience in Japanese at both undergraduate and graduate level at Waseda.
- Organized and co-organized of the yearly G-COE Summer School WSK-TNG in collaboration between Waseda University (Japan), Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy), KIST – Korean Institute of Science and Technology (South Korea), University of Tsukuba (Japan), and Nagoya University (Japan), with more than 70 PhD students and 20 professors from different countries and different institutions
- 10+ years of internal seminars held both in English and in Japanese
Graduate and post-graduate courses
Lectures and seminars