University Clubs and Circles
Clubs and circles form a vital part of the university experience. This is the place where most of the students spend their time out of the class to learn a couple of new skills, or to reinforce their existing skill set.
Student activities at universities are mainly divided into 2 categories depending on the level of engagement. Clubs are student groups which usually require high amount of engagement. Several clubs participate in competitions and tournaments, hence some have busy schedules.
Few clubs also welcome students of any skill level. Circles on the other hand have more flexible schedules. Some circles also play host to various exhibitions and performances.
Tohoku University Formula Team (TUFT)
I am part of a club called Tohoku University Formula Team (TUFT). Our club is a student formula team and we plan, design, and manufacture formulas from scratch for racing cars. Every year there is an event, Formula SAE (FSAE) Japan in Shizuoka prefecture where different student formula teams from Japan and across the globe meet and put their race cars to test. In 2018, 98 teams participated. There are two categories of vehicles that take part in the event: Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs) and Electric Vehicles (EVs). Our team falls under the EV category. TUFT came into existence in 2011 and it took part in the event for the first time in 2013.
TUFT members with TF-18 machine, photo by TUFT
Activities of TUFT include much more than just manufacturing a formula car. The club activity is designed according to the requirements of the competition. The competition has two events: the static event and the dynamic event. Static event has three parts- cost, design, and presentation. For this, we have to write an audit report of the entire designing and manufacturing process. The dynamic event has five parts- acceleration, skid-pad, autocross, endurance, and efficiency. It is this event where the driving skills of the members are put to the test.
Designing the driver position in the car, photo by TUFT
TUFT is one of the three monodzukuri clubs at Tohoku University. Now the question comes, “what is a monodzukuri circle?” In Japanese, “Monodzukuri”(ものづくり) means craftsmanship. So, the clubs/circles which are related to some sort of engineering production process are called monodzukuri clubs/circles. It is quite difficult to establish a monodzukuri club/circle as engineering production needs a good manufacturing facility. TUFT has four sites for manufacturing and assembly of the car. It is very expensive to have access to a well-equipped machine shop. That’s why monodzukuri clubs/circles have quite high membership fees.
(Milling the surface of a metal block, photo by TUFT)
Advantages of being part of Monodzukuri Circles
Even though the monodzukuri circles are a bit expensive, it is advantageous in many ways. Monodzukuri circles, because of their high expenses, often have to look for sponsors. The hunt for sponsors helps the establishment towards the deep-rooted industry contacts and helps the members to experience how industry collaborations are formed. Monodzukuri circles often get to experience how the professionals work. For example, TUFT members get to visit professional formula racing event like Super Formula Japan, talk to the professionals of the race, and take a close look at their technology to gather knowledge. Companies hold special seminars and exhibitions to make the students aware of latest technologies and unique techniques. This itself is an experience worth millions. Team management is a very crucial part of monodzukuri circles. Students learn how to manage time, money, and man power which proves very beneficial for the future. Unity amongst the team members and their coordination is very important for the success of the team.
TUFT member using the grinding tool, photo by TUFT
My Personal experience with circles and clubs
TUFT is one of the most intensive clubs at Tohoku University. It is quite demanding in terms of labour and brain power, but heavily rewarding at the same time. I love the entire manufacturing process. TUFT mostly manufactures the car during the vacations so that it doesn’t interfere with the academics of the members. Every day is a new learning experience for me. I learnt a lot about machines and techniques employed in manufacturing through TUFT. The seniors are very generous with the lessons for operating new machines. The best part about TUFT is the fact that I can do everything with a very limited knowledge of Japanese.
Because of our busy schedules, we rarely find time to party. But when a target has been met, we definitely go out to celebrate to build the team spirit and maintain high levels of motivation.
TUFT Imonokai party, photo by TUFT
Clubs and circles are a vital part of the campus life. Investing time only in academics might help in achieving a very high GPA, but it leaves the experience section of CV almost empty. These days, companies and institutes look for more well-rounded candidates having extra-curricular experience. So, I highly recommend that students join some clubs or circles for their own good. Also, club/circles give a window to break out of the monotony of regular academic life.
If you want to commit yourself more to your activity, clubs are the perfect place to be! Circles usually meet two to three times a week and if you wish to explore new areas of interest or practice your hobby flexibly, this is the place to be.