Russian Scholars

Welcome Breakfast for Russian Scholars-in-Residence

February 25, 2014
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WPI’s Scholars-in-Residence program is once again welcoming international scholars to campus for a professional and cultural exchange of ideas and techniques.

Three scholars from Astrakhan State University are visiting WPI for the full C-Term, studying the robotics program and generally absorbing life on an American campus. Members of the WPI community are invited to attend a breakfast on Tuesday, Feb. 25 to hear more about their visit.

Fred Looft, professor of electrical and computer engineering, collaborated with ASU to bring the scholars here. “I have been working with the administration of ASU for several years, trying to put together a program that would work for them,” he says, “and within the constraints of our schedules so we would all benefit.”

Idea Exchange

The program offers an opportunity to exchange ideas and teaching methods from different cultures. The scholars are Alexey Rybakov, chief of the department of research and technology; Ivan Mikhailov, an engineer at the center of perspective technology of robotics and electronics; and Egit Musaev, an engineer working in the area of robots and robotic systems. They will bring their training and research experience with ASU’s mechatronics degree program to study how WPI’s robotics program is structured and how classes and labs are taught.

With WPI’s success as the first university to offer a robotics degree, the ASU scholars will learn what makes WPI’s program thrive and how the curriculum includes the IQP and the MQP. They will speak with faculty and students about how both the curriculum and the resources available to students impact the outcomes of research.

Cross Currents

The benefits to ASU and WPI are tangible. WPI students have a chance to interact with these visitors nearly every day and to learn about their experiences and how their culture and their educational traditions are different from what they find at WPI. Two of the scholars have never traveled to the United States and they are getting an immersion experience in this culture.

“They are also having a good time playing basketball at noon with other faculty colleagues, swimming, playing ping pong, and going on local trips,” says Looft. Acting as a sort of cultural ambassador, Looft has taken them to Boston and has plans for more outings, including the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton,  “and maybe even a chilly trip to the ocean,” he says.

All Access

As with any setting, each university does things a little differently. Looft says the scholars were surprised by WPI’s 24/7 open lab policy. “ASU labs are open 12 hours a day, but a faculty member must be present,” says Looft. “Having buildings and labs open 24/7 is very unusual.” Student access to all the lab equipment, including laser cutters for robot part manufacturing, surprised them as well, he says.

The program, says Looft, results from the collaboration of many universities. “I should point out and give a huge amount of credit for supporting this visit to Royce Anderson, director of the International Center of Worcester, based out of Clark University.”.

Global View

For his part, Anderson is thrilled to see the project to fruition. “We’ve been trying to establish connections between WPI and ASU for a number of years,” he says. Although there have been talks and visits, this is the first official program between the two universities, and Anderson hopes it will be the first of many such interactions and programs.

“The global view is that these exchanges are a real and tangible way to promote world peace,” says Anderson. “The more connections we have, the less the likelihood for conflict there’ll be.” Universities have the opportunity to be pioneers in this kind of professional and education connection, he says, building ties and foundations that can be developed and strengthened over years.

The Humanities and Arts Department is hosting the Scholars-in-Residence breakfast: February 25, 9 am, Salisbury Labs 121.

BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL