A while back I posted an article on Maplesoft activities in Japan. As planned, last week, some colleagues and I made the trip to Japan and once again, came back with a bag full of stories and insights – technical, business, social, political – you can never spend a week in Japan and not be suitably impressed and surprised by the latest happenings.

Day 1: Maple TechnoForum 2008

The TechnoForum is the annual Maplesoft user conference for the Japanese user community. Hosted by our partner Cybernet Systems, it has become one of the most anticipated events for the engineering and scientific computing community in Japan and this year was another resounding success.

Although there was a strong undercurrent of MapleSim topics, there were plenty of  Maple-based applications as well. The speakers list included some of the most recognized and respected names in the Japanese engineering community including Mr. Akira Ohata, a senior engineering manager from Toyota and one of the pioneers of Model-Based Design (MBD) in Japan, and Dr. Shinji Hara of the University of Tokyo and an executive with both the Society of Instrumentation and Control Engineers (SICE) and the IEEE Control Society. Maplesoft and Cybernet also provided speakers to the program.

Most of the sessions were in Japanese (both in speech and on screen), but anyone with a modicum of experience in engineering modeling could get the basic gist of the talks. Topics included techniques in Model-based Design, robust control, linear graph theoretic modeling of physical systems, and more. All talks shared a common dimension of successfully resolving complex engineering modeling issues through the innovative use of symbolic computation techniques.

There was a time when such presentations were the exclusive domain of “bleeding edge” research but they are clearly becoming quite well-accepted in Japanese industry and engineers of all sorts and sizes are beginning to implement symbolic-technology into design projects. In other words, I should practice my Japanese a little more and perhaps a year or so from now I can offer a bit more interesting reading and actually comment on the technical detail of this conference.

Following the TechnoForum, we were treated to a spectacular traditional Japanese dinner featuring dishes that would surprise even the most adventurous among us Westerners. Japanese business dinners are amazing events and are marked contrasts to the very efficient, purposeful progression of the typical Japanese workday. But in the evening, colleagues, from the most junior to the CEO, will converge to enjoy the legendary team approach that this country is so famous for. Accentuate this with some quality sake and shochu and you have a truly reinvigorating conclusion to an intense day.

The always animated Chad Schmitke offers a detailed look at graph-theoretic modeling techniques for dynamic systems.

To be continued in Part II...

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