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A man shows off a tricked-out guitar during the reopening of the Innovation Studio at the Innovation Campus on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska

The Nebraska Innovation Studio hosted a grand reopening of their facility at the Nebraska Innovation Campus on Sept. 16 after finishing construction with expanded capabilities.

The event showcased a variety of new equipment, including more 3D printers, a plasma cutter and fiber lasers, as well as finished metal and wood shops.

“When we opened in 2015, there wasn’t enough money yet to do everything that we needed to do,” Jerry Reif, assistant director of the Innovation Studio, said. “We had to raise money and eventually could do this build-out.”

“We not only added brand new equipment, but we looked at things that we could have done bigger and better, and we did just that.” Max Wheeler, training & design specialist of the Innovation Studio, said. “The reopening is not only an opportunity for people to see the space, but also to get to try some things out.”

The event focused on more than unveiling the new improvements to the studio, David Martin, director of the Innovation Studio, said. It also was hosted to express gratitude towards its initial and current supporters, Martin said.

“A lot of people supported us early on, but I don’t know if they realize how much we’ve grown and how that initial support has grown into something amazing,” Martin said. “[The event] is a way to thank the people who helped us get to where we are and to let them know how far we have come.”

Aside from hosting classes, the studio is fully open to the public and self-sufficient. According to Martin, the studio utilizes private donations and member fees to purchase and maintain equipment.

“A lot of the equipment we get is based on what members want,” Martin said. “The fact that we didn’t have everything built for the first opening actually helped us in a way, since we got to see what everyone wanted first.” 

Eventgoers spoke with creators, viewed their products and received an in-depth look at how some of the equipment works.

“Right now, we are one of the best maker spaces in the country,” Martin said. “It’s hard to imagine how amazing it is until you’re actually here, so we really want to show people how cool this place is.”

Students can pay a monthly membership fee of $20 for unlimited access to the studio and its equipment. This also includes information on how to use the equipment through on-site instructors, training and even a virtual reality welding machine that simulates the experience of on-site learning, Martin said.

“People often don’t realize that they can do so many different things and that we are here to assist them,” Reif said. “You don’t have to know anything about anything to come here. All you have to have is an idea and a little bit of creativity in you, then we do the rest.”

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