Fab lab connection brings two Russians to Discovery Center

By University Communications
August 17, 2016
From left, Jennifer Astwood, associate professor; Philipp Egorov and Yaroslava Barmenkova of Russia; and Shawn Nelson, UW-Stout technician, work in the UW-Stout Fab Lab.

Photo: From left, Jennifer Astwood, associate professor;
Philipp Egorov and Yaroslava Barmenkova of Russia; and
Shawn Nelson, UW-Stout technician, work in the UW-Stout Fab Lab.

 As part of an ongoing exchange with National University of Science and Technology in Moscow, MISiS, University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Discovery Center Fab Lab recently hosted two MISiS Fab Lab employees.

Philipp Egorov and Yaroslava Barmenkova worked on projects at UW-Stout for two weeks, arriving July 17.

In Moscow, both work full time assisting MISiS Fab Lab visitors with projects, showing them how to use machines very similar to UW-Stout’s in order to create prototypes and models and guiding users to adjust their approach based on what they’ve learned from each iteration.

“It’s really my dream job,” said Barmenkova, an industrial designer who appreciates the variety and innovation of the fab lab environment. “A lot of people want to work in the fab lab, and all of them have their own ideas, some simple and basic, others complicated and high-tech. I design to help make those ideas beautiful.”

The UW-Stout Fab Lab was founded in 2013 with the assistance of a multiyear $520,000 Growth Agenda award from the UW System. It features digital fabrication machines, such as 3D printers, a laser cutter and minimill, that are programmed through computer software. Learn more here.

Jennifer Astwood and Philipp Egorov work on Astwood's concept light.While at UW-Stout, Barmenkova and Egorov collaborated with Jennifer Astwood, UW-Stout associate professor of industrial design, to bring one of Astwood’s ideas to life.

Astwood developed and proposed the concept of an “experiential light” that could be turned on and off by merely blowing at it, similar to the way a candle is extinguished.

“I intended for this challenge to require both problem-solving and aesthetic considerations from those who address it,” said Astwood, who is very pleased with the process and outcome. “It’s wonderful to be doing research and making things with other designers and engineers. We’ve had a really good time together.”

Barmenkova and Egorov’s solution took the shape of a gently splined, artistic piece that generates soft light when the user blows a puff of air toward it. It can be turned off the same way.

Egorov, who specializes in electronic engineering, concentrated on the light’s function and designed it to rely on a sound sensor to detect air flow.

“Sound can’t exist in a vacuum,” Egorov explained, noting that refinements to increase sensitivity and reduce production cost could’ve been developed had time allowed.

He also designed a second version of the light that relies on a motion sensor.

Egorov was quick to add, “You don’t have to be a scientist to do these things. The fab lab allows you to create different things because it’s a good community; we communicate.”

Egorov and Barmenkova also worked on furniture prototypes, including tables and lamps, while at UW-Stout.

Egorov has visited fab labs in Amsterdam and China and may attend the 2016 global Fab Lab Symposium in Shenzhen, China.

Astwood plans to incorporate her lighting design problem into the curriculum she’ll be presenting in November 2016 when she visits the MISiS Fab Lab. Her Russian colleagues and friends are looking forward to her visit as much as she is.

“The people here at UW-Stout have been so nice to us,” said Barmenkova. “They’ve made us feel like important guests, and it’s been a lot of fun. I hope I can make Jennifer feel as welcome in Russia.”

While in Menomonie, Egorov and Barmenkova also interacted with the campus community, local businesses and area residents.



Bottom Photo: Astwood and Egorov try Astwood's concept light, which turns on and off when someone blows air at it.