On 28 August, the children's Technopark opened at MIREA, Russian Technological University. It is the 16th technopark in Moscow. Read the article by mos.ru to learn what young scientists and inventors can do in the new labs.
Open and interdisciplinary
MIREA's Children's Technopark has three laboratory clusters. The radio-engineering and electronics cluster includes four laboratories and an exhibition space. The IT cluster has two laboratories, while the chemistry and biotechnology cluster has three laboratories. These state-of-the-art labs can accommodate 15-20 students at a time.
The lab equipment has been provided by industrial partners, Russian and foreign technology companies. They have also prepared a number of educational programmes for Technopark and trained teachers from among MIREA's graduates and employees.
"We aim to bring together those fields in the Technopark's space that are hardly represented in the extended educational segment or in other children's technoparks. MIREA's Technopark is the first park to run chemistry and biomedicine laboratories," says Head of Children's Technopark Vera Rogova.
Industrial partners are deeply interested in training quality personnel for their enterprises. That is why Technopark offers comprehensive career stages for children, from school to employment. The best students, authors of successful projects, enter the universities to train in the target area, with partners further employing them.
Technopark offers students over 70 educational programmes. Today, we do not train just engineers, IT specialists or chemists, as students need to use different tools at the same time in their work, for example, radio engineering and programming, as Vera Rogova explains. In Technopark, children will have an opportunity to attend all laboratories, combine and integrate their developments.
"We want children to solve one big issue in different laboratories and come up with a project at the conference. We believe this is the best approach," says Vera Rogova.
Boards, infrared scanners and transceivers
The first laboratory of the radio electronics cluster is a technological station featuring equipment for repair and production of electrical appliances. It has all the necessary soldering accessories, as well as a milling machine to make printed fiberglass circuit boards most electronic devices are based on and 3D printers to print housings. The station is almost ready for launch: employees test-run the equipment and study its functionality. The 3D printer is printing a keychain shaped as a small robot in a test mode.
Ivan Steshin, head of the technological station, demonstrates the gem of this laboratory — a custom-made infrared scanner whose quality and precision exceeds many similar devices used in the military industry. It is designed to troubleshoot electronic devices.
"If a PCB has a burnout or short circuit, the device starts to heat up. Our infrared scanner helps detect and correct this malfunction," Ivan says.
The second laboratory deals with radio signals. There are devices on the tables that look like metal detectors. These are nonlinear junction locators, as Ivan explains. They help locate hidden tracking devices such as bugs, trackers, or video cameras.
The laboratory equipment in this room looks even more futuristic than in the first one, with all those transceivers (huge radio stations), oscilloscopes and spectrum analysers to study radio signals, and horn antennas.
Pikor radars are perhaps the most useful devices of this laboratory, as they help emergency specialists to detect people buried under rubble. They come with lightweight laptops with specialized software.
"Radars are able to detect organic forms of life through walls and debris. All we can see on the screen is a reflection of waves. We analyse them, and a certain kind of waves signals us there's a living object inside," Ivan Steshin explains.
The microprocessor programming laboratories offer portable platforms to study electrical diagrams, debug boards, a specific electronic construction set to combine any number of sensors and build a smart home system, for example.
There are plenty of boxes with tiny drones on the shelves above the tables. A drone swarm can be used to make glowing shapes in the sky, like it was at the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
IT room and VR
The IT cluster laboratory is an unusual computer classroom to teach children programming. An individual workstation features a cyber capsule with a contour seat, three hanging monitors, armrests, and a keyboard stand. This technology has already been applied in MIREA. Technopark has customised it for school students.
Starting this September, the lab will offer classes on programs developed by the University teachers.
As for the interactive system and VR laboratory, it provides the most exciting experience, as it has almost everything the market of virtual and augmented reality in Russia and the world offers today. Most of the developments have been presented at the International Digital Summit in 2018.
Andrei Zuyev, Director of MIREA's Institute for Information Technology, Head of the IT cluster, demonstrates appliances, most of which being Russian developments. Students are in for the motion capture zone covering 64 sq m, driving and flight simulators, parallax screens to make holograms, portable VR backpacks and glasses, as well as VR rides, rotation simulators.
''You can simulate a module's emergency descent from the ISS, flight in a helicopter, shooting from a tank's turret. The chair imitates roll and pitch of moving objects, with the vestibular system adding to perceptions. Sometimes it's really scary!" says Andrei Zuyev.
However, all this diversity is not for games only. Children will be able to create their own virtual environment and equipment management systems. Therefore, all simulators and rides are ranked according to the level of complexity. After a child learns to program a simple object, he or she can move to the next level, to more complicated devices and more interesting tasks.
In the interactive system laboratory, students will listen to an overview lecture first and attend seven master classes on movement visualisation in virtual space technologies. Later, the programme will be expanded and supplemented.
Chemistry and biohacking
The chemistry and biotechnology cluster is designed to show children that chemistry is an interesting and exciting science. Most students study only its theory. Children will be able to obtain new substances and characterise them, with the following presentation at various competitions and conferences.
Laboratory of organic and inorganic chemistry is designed for independent work. There are rotary evaporators to concentrate organic compounds in solutions, melting tables to heat substances up to 500 °C, and exhaust cabinets to safely carry out various reactions. In addition, the laboratory provides everything required to study substances resulting from reactions: analytical balance, spectrophotometers, fluorometers and more.
"Children can study only fundamentals of chemistry here, but we, as the Technological University, care about the result, its practical value. A student should understand what part of a global scientific issue he or she is solving, for example, to finally synthesise a new substance possessing antitumour or other biological activity," says Mikhail Maslov, head of the chemistry and biotechnology laboratories' cluster.
In the biohacking laboratory, one can study all about living objects. Here you will find a sterile cell culture incubator to grow and study living cells. Also, there are devices to study proteins and nucleic acids, devices for enzyme immunoassay to track changes in molecules and identify antibodies associated with various diseases.
Moreover, the laboratory boasts a unique device, a spectrometer to learn the structure of a chemical compound and establish the number of its elements, using a constant magnetic field. The spectrometer is for learning only, so it is very small. According to laboratory's head, a professional device would occupy a quarter of the laboratory.
The laboratory of young researchers looks like a regular school chemistry classroom, but each desk has a laptop on, and a small cabinet containing 60 different reagents and all the tools a chemist may need, namely a microscope, scales, a tripod, test tubes, litmus paper, cylinders, pipettes, heating elements, electrodes, etc. There is a separate area in the other end of the hall featuring all appliances available in the biohacking laboratory customised for school students.
"Children start learning chemistry in the 7th or 8th from, and we take it into account. All we have here is safe for children of any age, they are free to look and touch it. The sooner they try their hand in chemistry, the sooner they will find out whether they want to engage in it or not. They will learn that humanity cannot exist without chemistry, since chemistry is everything that surrounds us, and we all are made of chemistry, actually," says Mikhail Maslov.
Technopark's opening hours
MIREA Children's Technopark will be open six days a week, 09:00 am till 08:00 pm. 1,500 children have already enrolled in the laboratory classes. Up to 5,000 students are expected to attend the venue within a year. All classes will be free.
About 40 schools from around Moscow have been collaborating with Technopark. We welcome children both as a whole class and individually, but to work in the laboratories, we divide them into groups to include students from different schools, thus teaching them to compete and collaborate.
"We aim to identify talented children, as their abilities are often hidden. School teachers may say: "It is an ordinary child, nothing special." But sometimes a former low-performing student suddenly comes up with a brilliant project, working in a lab, since Technopark's atmosphere seems to unlock children's talents".
Today, Moscow technoparks offer 29 different fields for children to study robotics, IT, virtual and augmented reality technologies, cosmonautics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, model-car construction, aeromodelling, geoinformatics, industrial design and 3D technology in 72 training and practical laboratories.