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"Intern's notebooks" Taiwan's First Popular Science Reality TV Show Premieres on 1/21

Training the necessary talent to establish the proper foundation for  scientific research and S&T related industries in Taiwan is one of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) main responsibilities. Training S&T talent requires a multi-faceted approach. Thus, the NSTC launched the Popular Science Production and Broadcast Project for Industry-Academia Cooperation. The National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) is in charge of this project and will collaborate with Dong Tai Communication to produce the popular science series Intern's notebooks. Starting on January 21, Intern's notebooks will be broadcast for three consecutive Sundays from 3:00-4:00pm on Formosa Television.

Fostering technological breakthroughs relies on the development of high-tech industries, which requires the continuous training of high-level talent and the transmission of relevant knowledge. Taiwan faces an aging population, declining birthrate, fewer and fewer STEM-related college, master’s, and doctoral graduates, brain drain of high-level talent, and changes in the career choices of young adults. Thus, it’s getting harder and harder to find the human resources to fulfill the demands of Taiwan’s S&T sector. From watching Intern's notebooks, audiences can understand that the key to the future is the strengthening and transmission of knowledge and technology.

Intern's notebooks is a reality show that allows audiences to see interns in businesses and research institutions working hard to absorb the latest knowledge. Through an evaluation process, audiences can get a better understanding of which high-tech industries are currently in high demand as well as how businesses utilize new technology and ways of thinking. This also shows how these industries are promoting progress and change throughout society while fostering professional knowledge in science and technology.

Intern's notebooks has three episodes. Each episode spans over about a month of interning. Real interns are featured throughout the series without any prompting or cueing. In addition to showing the hiring process and actual time spent interning, the show also has interns, regular employees and senior managers share impressions about their work experiences, which includes managers evaluating and giving suggestions to the interns.

Reality shows are special because they don’t have a script or actors playing particular roles. While shooting Intern's notebooks the producers ran into many challenges, one of which being that interns can only learn the most fundamental parts of a particular industry. Thus, it was hard for interns to understand the inner workings of an industry in such a short period of time. For example, the interns in the first episode, “A Five-Star Hotel for SPF1 Eggs,” came from Tsinghua University, Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Tunghai University, and Chinese Culture University. The interns worked at JD-SPF Biotech, an SPF (specific pathogen free) egg breeding company with expertise in positive pressure poultry houses.

However, individuals without the proper training cannot enter zero-bacteria positive pressure spaces. Through subsequent discussions, the production team and JD-SPF Biotech found a way to allow students to learn and better understand the application scope of SPF eggs. Thus, part of the internship was conducted at National Taiwan University School of Veterinary Medicine, Pingtung University of Science and Technology Graduate Institute of Animal Vaccine Technology, Animal Biologics Pilot Production Center, National Applied Research Laboratories National Laboratory Animal Center, and Adimmune. This taught interns how SPF eggs produced in positive pressure rooms are identified and used in vaccine production and pharmaceutical research.

The interns from the second episode, “Self-Driving Roadmap,” came from Central University, Taipei University of Technology, and Feng Chia University. Shooting this episode was challenging because it was hard for interns to understand professional aspects of autonomous driving if they didn’t have a  background in information or mechanical engineering. For this episode, the intern’s main instructor was the PI of the Taiwan Car Lab. Because a portion of the students came from disciplines other than information or mechanical engineering, the main instructor and the production team tailored the course to fit the circumstances.

This included organizing courses that let the interns get to know the fundamental framework of autonomous driving, cameras, lidar applications, and developments in AI driving. Finally, the interns tested whether vehicles were fit to drive in real conditions. During this episode, interns went to important institutions involved in the R&D of autonomous driving such as National Cheng Kung University Department of Electrical Engineering, oToBrite, and the Automotive Research & Testing Center. The interns all agreed that they got a lot out of this extremely valuable experience which helped them cultivate a passion for autonomous driving. 

The interns of the third episode, “Asia-Pacific Offshore Wind Farm Prepares to Take Off,” came from National Cheng Kung University and National Taiwan Ocean University. During the pre-production stage of this episode, the production team almost got ditched. Originally, the interns were supposed to be placed at an international development firm. The production team had written the episode’s outline and spent half a year making arrangements. But, when it was time to film, the developer said they couldn’t participate. Fortunately, the president of National Taiwan Ocean University arranged for Vena Energy to step in. In order for one of Vena Energy’s general managers to act as the intern’s main instructor, the production team had to completely revamp the structure of the course. In the end, the interns for this episode learned about environmental noise assessment.

In addition, the interns went to Century Wind Power to learn about underwater infrastructure, Dong Fang Offshore for hands-on experience with onboard maritime engineering, National Cheng Kung University Department of Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering’s floating fan model, and Taiwan International Windpower Training Corporation’s GWO2-level facility for basic safety training courses and courses in working at high elevations. Finally, the interns went to Taiwan Ocean University Department of Aquaculture to learn about maintaining the ecosystems and environment surrounding offshore wind farms. Interns obtained a diverse set of professional training by going through this intensive round of courses.

This is the third collaboration between NARLabs and Dong Tai Communication, following the success of Trailblazers–Stories from the Laboratory and Next, AI, both of which won the Golden Bell Award for Best Natural Science Documentary. Funding from the NSTC’s Popular Science Production and Broadcast Project for Industry-Academia Cooperation, allowed production of Intern's notebooks to adhere to the principles of science and maintain a high level of accuracy while being highly engaging. Starting from January 21, the show will air every Sunday afternoon for three consecutive weeks from 3:00 to 4:00 on Formosa Television. We invite anyone who’s interested to tune in at this time.

1 SPF is an abbreviation for specific pathogen free. SPF eggs are used in the production of vaccines. Thus, SPF producing hens must be raised in an extremely clean environment

2 GWO is an abbreviation for Global Wind Organization. This institution was established to ensure the safety of workers on wind farms by setting up essential courses on safety skills and safety information.