With the Winter Olympics underway, the world spotlight is shining brightly on Russia.
Roman Fetter, like most Russians, is excited about the games and the international attention they are bringing to his country. He's especially eager to see how Russia's figure skating, biathlon and hockey teams fare. "We are proud of our teams," he said, "and we'll be glad to see our sportsmen on the podium."
Unlike most Russians, however, Fetter will be following the games from afar, thousands of miles away while working at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Fetter, of Moscow, arrived at UW-Stout in late January, about the time world media and Olympic athletes began arriving in Sochi, Russia, for the games.
He doesn't mind. Fetter, 23, is working this semester as a research scholar at UW-Stout's Discovery Center Fab Lab, a digital fabrication lab in the Applied Arts Building. UW-Stout's Fab Lab is connected to other such labs around the world, including one at Fetter's alma mater, Moscow's National University of Science and Technology MISiS.
"I'm very glad to be here. It's a good international experience," Fetter said. "The atmosphere is very kind."
Working for the semester at UW-Stout, in some ways, will be like Fetter's own Olympics. It's his chance to see how his skills measure up on an international level, to improve his English and to make new friends and explore the culture and traditions of another country.
After earning a master's-level degree in mechanical engineering and metal forming process from NUST MISiS, Fetter began working in the school's Fab Lab, leading to his opportunity to be a visiting scholar for the semester at UW-Stout. The lab at NUST MISiS is a year older than UW-Stout's, which opened in February 2013.
The Fab Lab at UW-Stout is part of the Discovery Center, a cross-disciplinary umbrella organization that advances the university's mission through collaboration with business and industry. Cooperation by the Discovery Center, led by Director Randy Hulke, and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, led by Dean Maria Alm, was instrumental in bringing Fetter to campus.
"We're excited about the opportunity to bring Roman's engineering background and digital fabrication experience to our Fab Lab and the campus community. This is the type of collaborative exchange that advances UW-Stout's polytechnic mission and strengthens the Discovery Center's position in MIT's global Fab Lab network," said Hulke, referencing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which founded the network.
At UW-Stout, one of Fetter's goals will be to help train art students in the Fab Lab so that they can bring their ideas to life using the special equipment, such as the 3D printer and laser cutter. He has experience in Russia using the same equipment while creating conceptual objects.
"I see the opportunities in the lab. When you see these things come to life, it's very good. In the Fab Lab, you're like a painter but you're not using paint, you're using machines," he said.
In the foreseeable future, Fetter hopes UW-Stout exchange students will visit Russia so that he can work with them in the NUST MISiS Fab Lab.
Fetter was born in Syktyvkar, a city of about 300,000 and the capital of the republic of Komi. His hometown is about 1,000 miles from Moscow. His mother is an elementary school art teacher and his father a furniture-maker.
He is living with a host family in Menomonie, which he finds to be friendly like UW-Stout. "It's very good hospitality," he said, adding that he also has been enjoying the food.
UW-Stout connection with NUST MISiS
Along with the Fab Lab connection, Fetter's chance to work in the U.S. and at UW-Stout was enhanced last summer when UW-Stout signed a collaboration agreement with NUST MISiS, formerly called the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, or MISiS.
The schools will collaborate initially on research, scholarly activity, student and faculty exchanges and visits.
NUST MISiS, founded in 1918, has about 12,000 students in its Moscow and branch campuses. A research-intensive school, NUST MISiS is a leader in Russia for training engineers and scientists, especially in materials science, metallurgy and nanotechnology.
A NUST MISiS official visited UW-Stout last summer after two UW-Stout officials visited NUST MISiS last spring, leading to the collaboration agreement. The UW-Stout officials were Alm and Nagesh Shinde, a professor in the School of Art and Design.
Alm, who speaks Russian and has done scholarly activity in Russia for the past 20 years, hopes to see UW-Stout art and design students work with NUST MISiS engineers.
Alm and Shinde also toured the Moscow offices of the Leo Burnett Agency, an advertising agency based in Chicago with offices worldwide. The agency's Moscow office designed the official gold, silver and bronze medals for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Shinde, who previously was a senior art director for Leo Burnett in Chicago, would like to establish a working relationship between the agency's Moscow office and UW-Stout's School of Art and Design as the university's Russian connections become stronger.