OF INTEREST: Indian community celebretes Holi festival

​Holi Hai!!  

Holi, the Indian festival of colours (also known as the festival of love), is a celebration of the arrival of Spring. The festival symbolizes happiness and brings together families and friends for delicious food and lots of fun.
 
On Sunday, 16 March near Manosque, nearly 50 people—ITER staff from India, friends and families—gathered to celebrate this most colourful holiday.

 

 

 

Caps and gowns…in France?!?

Beginning at age 11-12, when they enter the class of sixième, and throughout their secondary studies until age 17-18, the life of a French student is entirely focused on passing the baccalauréat exam.

For more than two centuries, baccalauréat—from the Latin „laurel crown”—has been both a ritual of passage and the indispensable key to higher education.

The long road to the „bac,” however, ends in a rather lackluster fashion: anxious students wait for their name to appear on a list (either on the Internet or posted at the entrance of their lycée) and either rejoice or lament … and that’s the end of it. No graduation ceremony, no caps and gowns, no party—just names on a list.

However this year, one school in France decided that the passing of the bac deserved something better than the usual impersonal notification. The International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in Manosque, attended by some 500 „ITER children,” had good reason to celebrate in style: 27 seniors, among them the first students in France to sit for the European bac, and all of them passed.

Parents and friends who attended the ceremony on Saturday 6 July were witness to a very unusual event in France: young bacheliers wearing anglo-saxon style gowns and tossing their cap into the air amidst cheers and applause.

„We wanted to celebrate all of our graduates and have a formal moment together before they all head off in a different direction,” explains international school Director Bernard Fronsacq.

The young graduates, he adds, „now have a very strong academic base. But in organizing this event, they have also acquired something that is very important for their future: they have learned to work as a team. We are all very, very happy.”

Close team work and pleasure make winning robots



Some of the Region’s junior high and high school students woke last Thursday 16 May with one idea in mind: victory …

Since October for some, January for others, their science and technology classes, lunch breaks and Friday afternoons had gone to realizing and programming a small Lego robot—one that would successfully participate in and, if possible, carry the ITER Robots challenge launched by Agence Iter France and the ITER Organization for the second consecutive year. Each of the teams worked from a standard Lego kit that they customized, improving the optical sensors in some cases or modulating the articulating arm.

The five junior high and seven high school teams that had taken up the challenge arrived early at the Lycée des Iscles in Manosque, Lego model in hand, surrounded by their professors and classmates.

„A month ago, the jury visited the schools to assess the level of readiness, the technical maturity of each project,” said Jean-Pierre Friconneau, an engineer in the Remote Handling Section at ITER and moderator for the day. „I have to say that we were very impressed by the candidates’ understanding of the technical description, their organization. It was interesting to see the differences in the solutions imagined and very gratifying to see the young people’s enthusiasm.”

The first challenge, untimed, was to follow a pre-defined trajectory on the mat including curves, 90-degree turns and about-faces. A good number of the candidate teams—four of five junior high teams and four of seven high school teams—were eliminated after three unsuccessful tries at this stage.

As Jean-Pierre explained to the disappointed teams, because the lighting and surface conditions were not necessarily the same as those in the home practice areas only the teams that had included enough of a tolerance margin in their programs were successful: „Engineering comes down to making choices, and all engineers learn from their mistakes,” he told the students, as he encouraged them to persist in their exploration of mechanics, electronics and programming.

For the teams still in the race, the second challenge was a timed remote handling task that involved picking up as many blanket modules as possible from the ITER Tokamak model and delivering them successfully to the nearby Hot Cell.

„The technical complexity of this competition and the fact that the students have worked together, collaboratively, around a common project, responds in all points to what we’d like to see more of in schools,” said Bruno Pélissier who, as inspecteur pédagogique d’académie, is involved in the content of school programs in the area. „We supported this program—and worked hard to extend it to the high schools—because it provides an opportunity for practical, hands-on applications for what is learned in the classroom.”

At the junior high level, it was a clear victory for the Sainte-Tulle team for the second consecutive year, with a robot that was rapid and precise. Their recipe for success? „Close team work and pleasure in working on this project with our professors,” team leaders Alicia, Flavien and Mathis reported.

The high school competition was a tighter contest, with three teams advancing to the second stage—Lycée Thiers from Marseille,  Lycée d’Altitude from Briançon, and Lycée des Iscles—and only two on to the final stand-off where the jury gave each team minutes to re-program their robot to pick up a specific module, chosen by throw of the dice.

Even the professors were surprised to see how well the teams responded under pressure. „What I saw,” said a supervisor from Briançon, whose group placed second, „was that a group that was very disparate at the start came together around this year-long project. It motivated them. The students made their own choices in conceiving and programming their robots and we stood back and watched them go down unsuccessful roads before they found the solutions that worked. You have no idea how valuable an experience like that is. We’re really happy to be here today.”

In the end, the first prize at the high-school level went to the Lycée Thiers from Marseille. The winning team walked away with passes for an afternoon of Laser Game with their classmates and an educational robot that will allow them to continue their exploration of robotics.

Click here to view ITER Robots image gallery.

Complex logistics do not intimidate "Kevin"

Three months ago, Yanchun Qiao experienced a drastic change is his environment: moving from Shanghai (pop. 23 million) to Manosque (pop. 22,000), he left a megalopolis that never sleeps for a small town that closes down every weekday at 7:00 p.m. „I arrived on Sunday. It was very strange. It took me some time to realize that shops systematically closed on Sundays and Mondays.”

Yanchun has adapted. „You just need to buy food in advance for the weekends. This is a bit foreign for someone from China, especially someone from Shanghai, but it’s manageable.” However, closing early and remaining shuttered two days a week has its advantages: „It is a lot quieter here, and I find it’s not unpleasant at all.”

Since graduating from the Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School (a joint operation of the Chinese government and the European Commission) Yanchun has always worked for multinational  companies: he began his career at CHEP, an Australian logistics handling and equipment-pooling service company and later joined Maersk, the Denmark-based logistics giant. In both cases he was based in Shanghai, with a lot of travel worldwide.

Yanchun has come to ITER to manage the framework contracts pertaining to the transport and logistics of the ITER Organization components that Domestic Agencies will begin shipping in 2014. The complexity of the task doesn’t intimidate him. It is „quite similar” to what he did for nearly three years at Maersk. „Basically,” he says, „it’s a coordination job.”

_To_51_Tx_Yes but. „Working for the ITER project is not like working in a commercial context. At ITER, between the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies, it is a bit like at the United Nations. There is no direct subordination; no 'order’ that can be given … which means you need strong communication and lots of diplomacy.”

Complexity is in the nature of logistics. „There are always lots of entities involved, lots of details to deal with. In my previous jobs it was sometimes even more complicated: at Maersk, at times, I had to deal with some 50 business units. At ITER, we have only seven…”
Well, eight—if you count the French leg of the voyage. Once the components have been safely unloaded at Port de Marseille, Fos, another journey will begin—quite short as compared to the distance some of the components will have travelled by then, but complex and delicate.

The 136-kilometre Itinerary (including the crossing of the Étang de Berre by barge) that leads from Marseille-Fos harbour to the ITER site is not always direct, either geographically or administratively. As the convoys carrying the heavy exceptional components travel along the specialized ITER Itinerary, they will cross or impact dozens of administrative districts and involve several public or private entities.

Although the ITER Organization does not deal directly with the French authorities—this is the mission of Agence Iter France—it is part of Yanchun’s responsibility to keep a close eye on the ongoing processes: the improvements that are still needed on some portions of the Itinerary; the finalization of the conventions with the different entities involved, and the „big challenge” of the technical test (see box) that will be organized in September.

„Realizing the technical test in September will not impact the components delivery schedule,” says Yanchun — or should we say „Kevin,”, the nom de guerre Yanchun chose when he entered the China Europe International Business School. „I adopted the name for the convenience of communication. 'Kevin’ is a simple as possible and works in many languages and countries…”

Even in France, where the name 'Kevin’ was totally unknown and unused before the 1980s and suddenly became one the most popular given names in the following decade.

To do business with ITER, Toulon was the place to be



Panjawani Rajkumar, the vice president of cryogenic system specialist INOX CVA, came all the way to Toulon, France from Vadodara in the Indian state of Gujarat. His company is in the process of bidding for an ITER contract and what he was looking for last week, at the ITER Business Forum, was a partner company, or companies, to complement his tender offer.

If INOX CVA wins the contract it will need to team up with a company that will install its workshop on, or close to, the ITER platform. It will also need a partner to enforce quality control and on-site safety. „If we get the contract, we will be working under French regulation. Rather than training Indian personnel, it is more efficient to have a partnership with a French company that is familiar with national practices and regulation.”

Panjawani Rajkumar was one of 718 participants (from 386 companies, universities or research institutions) from 24 countries that attended the third ITER Business Forum held on 21-22 March in the Mediterranean port of Toulon.

As in Nice in 2007 and in Manosque two and a half years ago, the ITER Business Forum (IBF) in Toulon aimed at providing international industry with updated information on the status of ITER, the procurement process, and the calls for tender planned for the coming years.

The third edition of IBF was organized by the Industrial Liaison Officers Network of the European Domestic Agency for ITER (Fusion for Energy), the Toulon Tourist Office, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Var département, with participation and support from the ITER Organization, Fusion for Energy and Agence Iter France. Representatives of the ITER Domestic Agencies were also present.

For anyone interested in doing business with ITER, IBF was definitely the place to be. In his welcoming address, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima summarized what could be expected from the two-day meeting: „You will have opportunities, both formal and informal, to meet with representatives of the ITER Organization, Fusion for Energy and other institutions involved in ITER,” he told participants.

„These representatives will provide you with a better understanding of our project, of the machine we are building and of the procedures we are implementing. This meeting will also be an opportunity, for you, to develop collaborations, combine skills and create synergies that will benefit us all.”

Fusion for Energy Director Henrik Bindslev, who also addressed the IBF participants, stressed the importance for Europe to „increase competences and capacities […] in fusion and outside fusion. We want you to find opportunities in fusion and in ITER. That is what this Forum is about.”

And that is exactly what the IBF participants did. As Panjawani Rajkumar met with representatives of French companies, Pierre Janotton, an engineer with Belgium’s Centre Spatial de Liège—one of the world-leading institutes for space technology research and testing—was connecting with potential partners in the field of cryogenics, surface treatment and optics.

„You can draw several parallels between the conditions in space and the conditions in the ITER machine,” says Janotton. „We have a long experience in space and we made a first incursion into fusion recently by providing equipment to test the JT-60SA superconducting magnets. Of course we would like to have contracts with ITER and add our little stone to the project edifice, and this is the place to get the information and find the partners.”

Like Rajkumar and Janotton, the 718 participants in IBF left Toulon with dozens of contacts and several prospective partnerships. They brought home a better understanding of what ITER is about and a clearer perspective of the project’s economic weight. The local daily Var Matin summed it up in its Friday morning headline: „ITER: a four-billion-euro market for industry.”

500 students and a new director at Int’l School

Tuesday 4 September saw the start of another school year at the École Internationale Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (EIPACA), in Manosque, where students now number 500, some 45 percent of them being "ITER Children".

The newly appointed Director, Bernard Fronsacq personally addressed every class, welcoming them and stressing the important points in their curriculum for the coming school year.

Mr Fronsacq is a 40-year veteran of the French Éducation Nationale administration with a solid international experience. He spent more than 14 years in North America, having been posted in New York, Montreal and Washington, D.C.

In an interview with the regional daily La Provence, the newly appointed director was quoted as saying that he felt „privileged to be posted in a school that serves a major project for the future of mankind […] This adds an extra dimension to my mission — like being boosted by vitamins…”

Financed by the regional government of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur as part of France’s commitment to ITER, the EIPACA opened its doors to elementary school children in October 2009. Junior and senior high school students joined them in September 2010.


Goodbye, Mr Clément

The International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, where „ITER children” account for half of the total enrolment, owes a lot to Jean-Paul Clément. As Head of this unique institution—a school that is part of the French public educational system but provides classes in ten different languages—Director Clément had to manage a project that appeared at times as complex and challenging as ITER itself.
Establishing an international school close to Cadarache was part of the French commitment to ITER. Pending the construction of the facility, the International School opened in September 2007 in temporary accommodations in a nearby lycée and eventually moved onto its own beautifully designed campus two years later.

As construction was progressing, it was the Director’s responsibility to establish a curriculum compatible with both the stringent requirements of the French educational system and the demands of the Education ministries of the ITER Members. No simple task …

Director Clément’s mandate has now come to an end. On Thursday, a ceremony was organized at the International School in Manosque to bid him farewell and wish him all the success in his future endeavours.
In his address to Mr Clement, which he chose to pronounce in French, ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima stressed the importance of the International School for the ITER project. „ITER needs to gather talent from all over the world. The existence of the International School is an important factor in the acceptance decision for those with families and school-age children.”

Jean-Paul Clément is leaving the International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur for a mission in Laos for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


ITERminator wins first ITER robot contest

Ten or fifteen years from now, some of the students from the neighbouring schools may wish to work at ITER or in one of the many fusion labs around the world paving the way towards fusion energy. So why not get an early start and begin training for, let’s say — remote handling?

Such was the idea behind the First Student Robot Contest (Premier concours scolaire de robotique) that Agence Iter France and the ITER Organization jointly organized this Tuesday, 19 June. The contest was based on a simulation of a real-life situation, one that will occur over the 20-year course of ITER operation: the remote-handled removal of selected blanket modules from the inner wall of the vacuum vessel, followed by transport of the modules to the nearby Hot Cell Facility.

Students from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur International School in Manosque and from nearby Collège (junior high) Pierre-Gardot in Sainte-Tulle—all aged 13 or 14—had accepted to take on the challenge.

As both teams performed the last adjustments to their robot, ITER Assembly & Operations Division Head Ken Blackler addressed the contenders. „ITER will be the first fusion machine to produce a burning plasma. Because of the resulting radiation, it will be impossible for humans to enter the vacuum vessel. We will need many robots…”

Although simplified to the extreme, the remote handling operations were quite challenging for the small school-made robots. Both robots, ITERminator 5.1 from the Sainte-Tulle team and RTX Ariane 26 from the Manosque team had to follow a specific path, materialized by black lines on the floor. The path led to a mockup of the ITER Tokamak in the centre of the stage, where the robots needed to pick up a small plastic piece representing a four-ton blanket module, pivot, and head back to a black box representing the Hot Cell Facility to deposit the blanket module.

The robots had to perform the operation three times on three different modules. Instructions on the final module were given only at the last moment, requiring the teams to program their robot in the heat of the action.

As the robot from the International School began its journey toward the mockup, it became clear that something was wrong with its electronic brain. RTX Ariane 26 experienced serious difficulty in following the lines, seemingly preferring „freestyle” to compulsory figures. Despite a last-minute reboot, it never quite managed to fulfil its mission.

True to its name, ITERminator 5.1 proved invincible: its performance was nearly faultless and brought to the Sainte-Tulle Junior High a clear victory.

The competition was just a game and, as such, „the essential was not to have won but to have fought well …”

There was a moral, however, to be drawn from the experience. „You can do something great on paper,” Ken Blackler told the contenders, „but the real test is in the confrontation with reality. Things rarely work the first time.”

In the young students’ efforts, co-host Alain Becoulet, head of CEA’s Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research, saw the reflection of „two of the greatest challenges in fusion research”: the necessity of working together on one same object, and the necessity of being patient. „In fusion,” he said, „the timescale is larger than an individual’s lifespan…”



Korean school books to bridge the cultural gap

ITER, the world’s largest international research project, is not only a technical and diplomatic challenge. For the employees from more than 27 countries who—together with their families—have moved to southern France, it is also a cultural experiment. How will their relatives settle in this foreign country? How will their children adopt to a new language, a new school system and, finally, a very different curriculum from what they are used to?

„As we are aware of the challenges of living abroad, we are pleased to hand over some 30 Korean school books that shall enable families to measure their children’s scholastic achievements and to catch up with the curricula when they return to their home country one day,” Head of the Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung, said during the small handover ceremony that took place at Manosque’s Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur International School last week.

More than 200 books had been donated last year and the next donation is already in the planning. At the request of some involved mothers, Kijung Jung is likely to have some books on cultural studies and liberal arts in his suitcase on his next trip to Cadarache.


Korean school books to bridge the cultural gap

ITER, the world’s largest international research project, is not only a technical and diplomatic challenge. For the employees from more than 27 countries who—together with their families—have moved to southern France, it is also a cultural experiment. How will their relatives settle in this foreign country? How will their children adopt to a new language, a new school system and, finally, a very different curriculum from what they are used to?

„As we are aware of the challenges of living abroad, we are pleased to hand over some 30 Korean school books that shall enable families to measure their children’s scholastic achievements and to catch up with the curricula when they return to their home country one day,” Head of the Korean Domestic Agency, Kijung Jung, said during the small handover ceremony that took place at Manosque’s Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur International School last week.

More than 200 books had been donated last year and the next donation is already in the planning. At the request of some involved mothers, Kijung Jung is likely to have some books on cultural studies and liberal arts in his suitcase on his next trip to Cadarache.