A group of students from Eton College, the U.K.’s most famous school, visited the Skolkovo innovation centre on Wednesday, where they were inspired by a selection of Russian startups including an exo-skeleton, a microsatellite and a surgery simulator.

Eton student Hugo attempts a virtual appendectomy as his classmates and Skolkovo representatives look on. Photo: Sk.ru

Several of the pupils were bold enough to try their hand at the surgery simulator produced by Ensim, a resident of Skolkovo’s biomed cluster, performing an appendectomy using the machine designed for training surgeons and medical students.

Despite the outcome for the virtual patient – “That’s done it, you’ve got peritonitis now!” Skolkovo vice president Kirill Kaem teased the boys – the pupils said they had found the experience inspiring rather than off-putting.

“I was so impressed by Skolkovo, my go on the machine over there made me want to go into medicine… I’d never really thought about it, but doing that was inspiring,” a student named Hugo told Sk.ru.

“It’s like [the board game] Operation, but 100 times better!” he added.

The students of the prestigious boys’ boarding school also passed around components of a microsatellite made by Sputnix, a resident of Skolkovo’s space cluster, and watched a demonstration of how a rotating globe is used to predict the satellite’s behavior in space. They were also shown a miniature drone made by TsAPK, a resident of the IT cluster, that can navigate both air and water, and is controlled by a smartphone app. The drone is sold in educational kits that allow users to build the UAVs themselves in just a few hours, as no soldering is required, TsAPK co-founder Nikita Rodichenko, a graduate of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, told the students.  

Another student examines a mini drone made by TsAPK. Photo: Sk.ru.

“I really liked the drone, its simplicity,” said Hugo. “It can get people interested in technology because people can build it from a kit, so they’re not just passive consumers, they’re actually involved in the creation of stuff,” he said.

The Etonians, all aged 17 and 18, also saw demonstrations of rapid tests for concussion – particularly topical for students of a school renowned for its sporting prowess – made by DRD Biotech, as well as functioning prosthetic hands made for children by Motorica, and watched as a man usually confined to a wheelchair stood up and walked across the room with the help of a rehabilitative exo-skeleton made by ExoAtlet, eliciting a round of applause from the students.

“Initially I found things like the drone the most interesting, but then having seen things like the exoskeleton … I found that really interesting because obviously this place is set up for enterprise and to help the economy, and yet there’s something there that’s so obviously helping a lot of people,” a student named George told Sk.ru.

“The search for entrepreneurship is having such good benefits for so many people who really need it,” he added.

Both George and Hugo were visiting Moscow for the first time, and came to Skolkovo’s Hypercube building following a morning visit to Moscow State University. Both said they were impressed by Moscow.

“Just the scale of it, it’s just on a different level to somewhere like London,” said George.

Eton College, located in Windsor just outside London, has produced 19 British prime ministers, including David Cameron. Other contemporary notable alumni include British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, princes William and Harry, and Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury. The school was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.