Passion for inclusivity leads college students to victory in Japan presentation contest

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Natsumi Sasaki, left, and Holly Casandra deliver their presentation at the 10th Annual All Japan Student English Presentation Contest in Chiba Prefecture on Saturday.

Two young women shared their ideas about how to help hearing impaired students take school classes, delivering an impassioned presentation that brought them victory at the 10th Annual All Japan Student English Presentation Contest.

Natsumi Sasaki and Holly Casandra, both second-year students at Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages, took home the grand prize at the contest held Saturday in Chiba Prefecture. The pair proposed a system called “i Hear U,” in which a portable desktop generator projects a 3D hologram of a sign language interpreter.

The pair looked at each other in surprise when the result was announced. “Did they really call our names?” said Holly. Sasaki said: “As the judging process progressed, the pressure grew. We never thought we’d win.”

Judges praised the two for their combination of feasibility and creativity. “They had a great passion for what they wanted to say,” said Sadaaki Numata, chief judge and chairman of The English-Speaking Union of Japan.

Mana Tsuchiya, a sophomore at Kanda University of International Studies, was awarded second prize for her proposal of an innovative app aimed at supporting transdisciplinary education. The app would analyze schedules and textbooks, finds common keywords and suggest the best way for busy teachers to combine classes.

Honorable mentions went to an individual and two teams: Zhao Ziying, a junior at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies; the trio of Kaya Miyazono, Yui Chikamori and Keietsu Fukushima, sophomores at Sophia University; and the team of Rintaro Ishito, Sky Cangas Tampol and Arian Rahman, sophomores at Akita International University.

This year, 747 students from 192 universities, graduate schools, junior colleges and other institutions took part in the contest, which was organized by the Kanda Gaigo Group and The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Students who reached the final round gave presentations up to 10 minutes long in English, using slides and other visual media, and answered questions from judges and the audience. Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the finalists’ presentations were livestreamed so people could watch at home, as was done last year.