E-OLYMPICS with Asia’s Engineering College Students at KAIST
▶ August 1954
In 1954, eight universities in the eastern United States signed an agreement to form an American Football League. Coincidentally, all of the eight universities had campuses decorated with ivy leaves. When their exchange became more than sports, the name of their group had become a common name that refers to prestigious private universities in the eastern United States. It became known as the Ivy League.
▶ January 2014
KAIST proposed to form a league of their own. It spearheaded a gathering of student delegations from a total of five universities: Tsinghua University in China, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Nanyang Institute of Technology from Singapore, and Tokyo Institute of Technology (TiTech) in Japan. The aim of the meeting was to bring together Asia’s top engineering & research-centered universities through sports. The universities decided to hold activities such as basketball, dragon boating, science quiz, e-sports, and relay races to be participated by about 150 students in total with 30 students from each university. The events were carefully chosen for all students to enjoy, yet also to display their strong skills.
▶ July 2014
The movement of student delegations was in sync with ASPIRE (Asian Science and Technology Pioneering Institutes of Research and Education) project, established in 2009 to facilitate research collaborations between the five universities. In July this year, the 2014 ASPIRE League Forum was held at Tsinghua University, and it was announced that the cultural exchange of undergraduate students would be organized in the following month. With student unions at each university as the center, the Organizing Committee (OC) was formed.
▶ August 7, 2014
The opening for ASPIRE League E-Olympics began. The Tsinghua students in purple, HKUST students in yellow, Nanyang students in red, TiTech students in blue, and KAIST students dressed in white t-shirts all attended the opening ceremony. Student representatives each holding their university flags took an oath-taking ceremony to fair play. The participating students, all met for the first time, socialized easily with one another at various occasions, such as dinners and parties.
▶ August 8, 2014
The first day of E-Olympics began with basketball and qualifying round for e-sports in the morning, followed by dragon boating at the Gapcheon River in the afternoon. The dragon boating was well received among students as the most exciting event. A total of 12 players, consisting of ten rowers, one steersman and one drummer, boarded each of five boats. The strength of each player was important, and the power of the rowers propelled the boat forward. The team exhibiting the best unity was HKUST, which came in the first place. Their victory was the result of years of training together for the dragon boating festival held every May 5th according to the lunar calendar, which has had a long tradition in Hong Kong.
After the games, students visited various laboratories at KAIST, including the E-mobility Lab working on an electric car called Armadillo, Bio-Imaging and Cell Signaling Lab, Mechatronics Systems and Control Lab with the fastest running robot in the world, as well as C-Friend Lab researching unmanned aerial vehicle systems.
▶ August 9, 2014
Various activities continued the second day. KAIST won the science quiz, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology won the final at the relay race. At basketball finals, nearly 2 meter-tall players from China and Singapore’s strong sportsmanship collided head-on—the Nanyang University team took away the victory. At an e-sports game entitled the “League of Legend,” TiTech students beat KAIST in a dominating performance. The winning team of E-Olympics was selected by the combined scores. Although TiTech students won both relay race and League of Legend games, the trophy of the first ASPIRE League E-Olympics was awarded to Singapore’s Nanyang Institute of Technology, ranking evenly high in all games.
▶ Wrap-up after 2 days and 3 nights
Although all five universities are well known as science and engineering universities in Asia, there was not much that students knew about each other. Research exchange on university levels has continued since the establishment of ASPIRE League in 2009, but this was the first time for undergraduate students from these universities to become actively involved in sharing their interests and cultures.
International students who visited KAIST were impressed with the spacious, beautiful campus, and well-equipped facilities such as KI Institute Building and Sports Complex. The international students whose dormitories were older and far away from the campus, or who had none at all, especially evaluated KAIST dormitory highly. Furthermore, KAIST students’ cheering squad, ELKA, who led the opening night, as well as KAIST student clubs such as Illusion, Six Lines, and MindFreaks, which performed on the second day, were also very popular.
Nevertheless, the center of the attention was the event itself, both organized and run by students. A group of participating students belonging to a leadership group from Tsinghua University in China praised KAIST students highly as the host for the event. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology also expressed their wish to continue this event and hold the second ASPIRE League E-Olympics in Hong Kong next year.
The organizers, who missed out on socializing with other students because they were too busy to manage the event, are already envisioning the next “ASPIRE League E-Olympics.” They are sketching outlines of the next games to ensure that everyone will enjoy them, as well as planning non-competitive games for more students to participate. They have even imagined the future, where the event that began in 2014 at KAIST will become an old tradition among Asia’s science and engineering universities, and dreamed of the first OCs to later become OBs (Old Buddies) and sponsor the very event they have founded.
When academic and cultural exchanges such as the ‘ASPIRE League’ continue in the future, it will become the common name referring to prestigious universities in Asia, just as the Ivy League that began from sports became a byword.
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