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November 24, 2015

WIST makes connections far and near

Language was no barrier when a Russian manufacturing officer visited recently with WIST instrumentation specialist Justin Hall.
Olga Filippova was one of six visitors from Steven Point’s Russian sister-city of Rostov Veliky. The delegation was in Stevens Point for about a week in early November and experienced local amenities such as the Green Circle Trail and the Sculpture Park, visited area farms, and chose from a number of site visits such as Stevens Point municipal waste treatment facilities, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and the UW-Stevens Point Waste Education Center.
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“(Filippova’s) a health and safety officer for a manufacturing plant in Russia and she had previously worked at a university so she was interested in seeing the pilot facility here,” Hall explained.
Opened in 2011, the Waste Education Center is part of the College of Natural Resources and features a pilot scale waste water treatment plant, composting and recycling facilities, a laboratory and a classroom. Hall has used the laboratory for several WIST projects including research on treatment options for wastewater at oil processing facilities for the global company Siemens.
Fiippova didn’t speak English but that wasn’t an issue. Not only did she have a translator along, by happy coincidence a UW-Stevens Point graduate student who assists on Hall’s WIST projects is from Ukraine and speaks Russian so he helped out as well.
Hall said Filippova had many questions and they ended up visiting for nearly an hour and a half.
“She was really curious about the projects I’ve worked on here,” Hall said. “She was impressed by how streamlined things were and how we get things done. In Russia they have a lot more bureaucracy to deal with.”
Also recently, Lindsey Hoffman, WIST laboratory and papermaking project specialist, led a visiting group of 24 Weyauwega-Fremont High School students in a paper lab exercise.
The field trip was for the school's "Focus on Your Future Day," said Lynn Ponto, the Weyauwega science teacher who brought the group. 
“The students were high school students interested in science or UW-Stevens Point and picked this trip as opposed to other trips that day around the state to look at future opportunities,” Ponto said, adding that they ranged from freshmen to seniors, two of whom are already accepted at UW-Stevens Point.
Because the day’s schedule was packed with stops at various campus areas, the papermaking activity was “pretty low-level and that was because we could not fit in any more in the short time we were there,” she said.
Hoffman said she and other three other WIST staff had prepared paper pulp ahead of time and the four of them helped the students through a typical lab process.
“We made hand sheets,” Hoffman explained. “The students each got their own beaker, and we had dye for them so they could choose a color to make the handsheets, just to make it more fun. We dried the handsheets before they left so they could take them with them.”
Being science students, they had lots of questions about the other equipment in the paper laboratory, too, Hoffman said. The students had a busy itinerary for their campus visit so had to move on after only about a half-hour in the paper lab.
“A lot of them were really interested,” Hoffman said. “You could tell that a lot of them wished for more time.”
WIST has participated in many outreach activities for area communities, organizations and businesses. We enjoy explaining the work we do. Contact us if you or your organization or business is interested in visiting to learn more about our operation.
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