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CEAS students win ANA Ideathon grand prize

Winners of ANA Ideathon stand together

The four-person winning team of the 2018 ANA Ideathon pose together with two other event participants.  From L to R: Jillian Chan (UC Berkeley), Pearl Yip (Stanford), Nicholas Lo (UC Berkeley), Liang Wei Koh (Stanford).

Feb 13 2018

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50th Anniversary, Students

By Kelley Cortright, Event & Communications Coordinator, Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS)


Center for East Asian Studies M.A. students Liang Wei Koh and Pearl Yip, along with two teammates from the University of California, Berkeley, won the grand prize at the 2018 ANA Ideathon held on February 12, 2018.

This was the third ANA Ideathon, hosted by the Stanford Silicon Valley-New Japan Project, in collaboration with ANA and World Innovation Lab.  The competition pits teams of university students against each other in an effort to come up with practical and creative solutions to real-world issues that face ANA airline customers.

Koh and Yip’s team’s winning idea centered on enhancing airport navigation within ANA’s existing mobile application. “We wanted to make it easier for transiting passengers who couldn’t speak Japanese to get to their next gate or find the closest bathroom,” explained Yip. “Our idea was to install a compass on the ANA app and have it direct the user around the airport, with live tracking on the user‘s location.”

A total of 36 students participated in the event. Each team of four students was given 90 minutes to brainstorm ideas, and then had three minutes to present their ideas to a panel of judges, which included venture capitalists and ANA executives. Judging is based on several criteria including creativity, story-telling, feasibility of implementation, business value, and teamwork.

Among other benefits, the experience gives students the opportunity to imagine solutions to real world business problems, sharpen communication and presentation skills, and think about how to frame an innovative idea to best engage a business.

Koh and Yip said their inspiration for tackling language barriers with the ANA app came partly from their academic work at the Center for East Asian Studies. “Dealing with resources in various languages [in our courses], we understand the challenge and frustration one faces when you are unable to speak the local language,” said Koh.

The ANA Ideathon also introduced Koh and Yip to additional areas of study that they would like to pursue, such as economic development challenges in Japan, and market entry into Japan.

When asked what they would do with the grand prize roundtrip flight to Japan, Koh and Yip were both enthusiastic. Koh says Tokyo is one of his favorite cities, and he looks forward to exploring it and the rest of Japan with his friends and family. Yip would also like to go to Tokyo, to see the spring cherry blossoms with her fiancé.