n-innovationstudios

Senior mechanical engineering major Kelsey Moss uses tools at the Nebraska Innovation Studio on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Among the loud whir of a saw and the soft clicking of a sewing machine, Lincoln residents and University of Nebraska-Lincoln students make their creative visions come true in Nebraska Innovation Studio.

In October 2015, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln opened its Innovation Campus just north of its city campus.

The space, which is open to the public, is a place for students and Lincoln residents to expand their creativity and work on projects, according to David Martin, Innovation Studio director.

“My job is to help members make whatever they want to make, and to make their visions become a reality,” he said. “We’re a makerspace, and we want to help people make things.”

Martin said the studio offers resources like saws and sanders in the woodshop and computer numerical control tools like lasers — the most popular resource. The studio also offers ceramic, textile and computer software resources such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop programs.

According to Martin, the studio is open to those who pay the monthly fee, which ranges from $15 for undergrads to $60 for community members.

Martin said he sees people use their resources for a variety of different reasons, such as students using the space for school projects or craft entrepreneurs making products they eventually sell.

“There are some students who do school projects; there's some who do personal projects,” he said. “We have some members who are craft entrepreneurs.”

Martin said he’s seen some members collaborate with others to work on projects.

Lincoln resident David Manzanares collaborated with fellow artist Jay Kreimer to build an ofrenda and an interactive musical statue for the Day of the Dead celebration at the Nebraska History Museum on Nov. 4.

“We interact with each other and do different projects together,” he said. “So, many times I can work with an engineer and I can work with a musician … we all come here sometimes for hobby or sometimes a big project.”

Joann Ross, academic counselor for UNL’s Athletic Departments, said she uses the studio’s 14-inch, long-arm quilter twice a month to make quilts. Ross said she used to hire someone to help make the quilts but decided to use the resources at the studio to make them herself because she felt disconnected from the experience.

“This gives me the opportunity from conception to actually hanging it or laying it across a bed,” she said. “I control all of it, which is a really good feeling.”

The Innovation Studio played a large part in Nebraska Innovation student intern John Strope’s decision to attend the school.

As a sophomore mechanical engineering major, Strope said he doesn’t always get to complete a project at school, but he enjoys being able to do so at the studio.

“I’m creatively inclined,” he said, “and in a lot of my engineering curriculum, there’s not necessarily a big emphasis on the practical implications of making something — designing a project from start to finish and following through with the actual construction of it. I really like being able to come out here and walk in with a giant stack of lumber and walk out with a finished project.”

Martin said the studio always has at least one member working on a project, but it begins to fill up more near the end of the semester with final projects and those working on holiday gifts.

“Nebraska Innovation Studio becomes the gift factory in December,” he said. “People make everything from cutting boards to laser-engraved baking dishes and laser cut jewelry to dyed scarves to quilts to ceramics cups and bowls. You name it.”

He said he enjoys being in an environment filled with creative people every day. He hopes members can benefit from the resources at Innovation Studios and said people can create whatever they set their mind to.

“I just want them to achieve whatever their goal is,” he said. “I think there is some sort of innate joy from creating something in a physical world. Being at Innovation Studio builds resilience. It builds creativity, and it builds innovation. It’s a lot of fun.”

Libby Seline contributed to the reporting of this story.

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