Moscow, Mushrooms, MISiS

September 4th, 2012

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Here I am in an electronics store buying soldering irons… SOME PEOPLE blew up a bunch of the 110V stuff… after SOME PEOPLE ordered a bunch of 110V stuff for a 220V country… ugh, as the expression on my face says. Haha no I was just really tired. Vladimir took this picture.

So I may have been too lazy to post this a month ago when it happened… and since then I have been in many other countries including Dubai, India, and New Zealand, but bear with me as I try to pretend to be up to date with blogging.

Moscovians are not all mushroom fans, but they can each name 6 or 7 kinds at least, and many of them have foraged for mushrooms before. So in retrospect obviously I was set up to get along with the Art|Cam and fablab crowd at MiSiS, a university focused on metallurgy technologies a stone’s throw from Red Square in Moscow. Pas li soberite lisichki is pretty much the only thing I can say in russian now, or belli grib. But mushroom phrases got me pretty far.

Look at this shit! That is more than 10 types of pickled mushrooms!

In a room with a 5 axis Haas CNC mill, a Haas CNC lathe, and right next to a lovely Flexicam 3 axis CNC mill with vacuum hold down, we brought a paltry fab lab. This is the full list of things that we recommend for standard fablabs, and they got all of it. It took some top-notch diplomacy to get the whole thing past customs, but it made it.

By now I have lost count of how many labs I’ve helped deploy, but there are a lot of them. I still gather some general knowledge on my wiki (like what to install on linux, or how to set up sending things to machines) but every time there is a bunch of random problem solving with networks and proxies, linux distros, power conditioning issues, 220 vs 110, leveling floors, realigning lasers…

Here they are, ticking away…

However counter to my preconceptions, the Moscow install was completely pain free. Partially this was because unlike some previous installs, this crowd was super excited to get the stuff out and running, and by the time we got to Moscow, they already had most things unboxed and were in the process of setting them up. Russians (or at least these Russians) are also knowledgable, good at fixing things, very polite, and don’t complain about anything, even if our software would segfault if they did something that otherwise seemed perfectly reasonable. I guess in that case I would swear enough on their behalf, and english swearing seems pretty universally comprehensible. Also they’re all really handsome.

Here we are visiting the fancy state university with Roman and Alexander, and on the right we have zee schpectacular Vladimir Kuznetsov who I will forever adore for trying so hard to get me a martini and also being generally lovely.

After getting the lab operational, we were to teach a 5 day workshop on processes in the fab lab, with a translator. This seemed like something that could never possibly work- we try to cram too much information into any lecture anyway, so how were we going to get that all through a translation pipeline? But our translator was the amazing francophile Sergei Shikalov, also Catherine Deneuve’s translator! He did an admirable job even when I was trying to explain an AVR datasheet. The genius teenager Dmitry Suhotsky jumped in as an interim translator at some point, and as some point asked “can I add some things to your explanation to make it more clear?” Ha.

Here are some OOMOO things Asia and Roman made during the moulding and casting day.

Dmitry and his dad Vladimir made a whole robotic vehicle during the 5 day workshop, complete with acrylic chassis, silicone moulded tyres, stm32 controller brain, IR rangefinder, and probably more bells and whistles I’m forgetting to mention.

Dmitry also taught a volunteer lecture on basic electronics, for which he brought a grab bag of Soviet era electronics to demonstrate including this mechanical microcontroller:


Folks like Dmitry really make you happy about helping make digital fabrication equipment freely available.

Anyway, I had a great time in Moscow, ate a lot of amazing food esp. at that place ragout that Julia Ioffe mentioned in her article about Russian Cuisine. Californians come: foie gras is readily available in Moscow! The Meursault is too expensive though, and some of the Pinot Grigio is really weird.

This is a photograph from 1985 by Andrey Solomonov called Conversation with Computer. This is included in random cultural things I did, which also featured going to the Pussy Riot church. is by nadya peek. she'd love to hear from you.