Takuto Oikawa – Class of 2009

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This month we catch up with Takuto Oikawa, a graduate from Georgia Institute of Technology, and currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at Tohoku University, Japan. Learn more about his project with the Space Robotics Lab developing a lunar rover under the Google Lunar X Prize Competition race.

What did you do the year following HS Graduation?

I attended Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) during my undergraduate year with a major in Aerospace Engineering and a minor in Chemistry.

Can you tell us about the career path you plan to choose after college?

I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at Tohoku University, Japan. I am part of the Space Robotics Lab, and we are developing a lunar rover under the Google Lunar X Prize Competition race. At the current pace, we are expecting to deploy the rover around year 2017.

In the research group, I am working on thermal design of the rover, called Moonraker. On lunar surface, the temperature varies between -200 degC to 100 degC during lunar night and day, and designing a rover that can handle such temperature difference is very challenging yet rewarding at the same time. After graduation, I have not decided my career path yet. I am considering to either to stay at Tohoku University for a Ph.D in Space Robotics or to go into the  work force to gain work experiences.

What do you enjoy most about your current career position?

During undergraduate year, I mainly learned the engineering theories pertaining to Aerospace technology. At graduate school, I am able to use the skill and knowledge that I learned at Georgia Tech at real life application, and seeing the difference between real and ideal situations is very exciting.

How did you become interested in your field of study or work?

Since I was adolescence, I enjoyed learning in mathematics and science, and I was especially curious about airplane and spacecraft. Why large pieces of metal are flying in the air and how they are perfectly assembled together. Those puzzles were always a great mystery to me.

How has attending St. John’s prepared you for success in college and in the workplace?

I believe that the one simple word “why?” has helped me prepare for both college and graduate school. In a daily life, we encounter many questions, ranging from trivial to profound ones. Questioning whether the given idea or fact is valid in specific case scenario still helps me to this day whenever I tackle an engineering problem.

Do you still keep in touch with your SJS friends?

Lately, I have not been able to keep in touch with my former classmates, but I believe we are still connected wherever we reside around the globe. Some day, I hope to meet all of my classmates again.

What experiences from St. John’s are the most memorable?

Late night study group, playing in all-island tournament, working on a pottery project. Every single day that I was at St. John’s was memorable, and I am grateful that I was able to utilize every opportunity given at St. John’s.

Outside of work/school, what other activities or organizations are you involved with and why?

I generally try to explore the city whenever I can with my bicycle. Furthermore, there are seasonal festivals (matsuri) in Japan, and going to those events are sensational coming from a small island. Other than exploring Japan, I also try to get some exercise by playing tennis or futsal with my lab mates.

What would you say to a prospective family who is considering St. John’s School?

St. John’s School gives a variety of educational options that students can pick and choose. Whether they choose IB or AP curriculum track, he or she will get the most out of it, and I believe that St. John’s rigorous academic curriculum will help students to achieve a higher goal in college and beyond.

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