innovation campus

In Nebraska Innovation Campus’s first class last semester, a dress shifted shapes at the push of a button, a “pot bot” stirred hands-free and a contraption raised a flag to indicate that a garden needed to be watered.

Students created these projects in the Nebraska Innovation Studio, which is taught by Liana Owad, a professor and the studio coordinator. Owad is partnered with Shane Farritor, a professor of engineering. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, Farritor discussed the Innovation Studio in a speech called “Making for Innovation,” which was a series in the “Nebraska Lectures: Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series.” Tours of the studio were given afterward.

Farritor said that people can be taught to be innovative. Students can be spurred to create under ideas such as learning and entrepreneurship, he said.

“I think when you bring this all together, magic happens,” Farritor said.

To be innovative, people need to try things out and play, he said. Farritor said this is why places like the studio are so important.

“They’re unstructured, and everything we do over on main campus is structured,” he said. “…You only go there when you want to go there, you only make what you want to make. That’s important…you make things that you’re passionate about.”

Innovation Studio opened last month and currently contains looms, 3D printers, a computer lab, soldering stations and a woodshop, along with many other devices. Farritor said that furniture creation was possible as well.

“There are a couple of machines that are like crack cocaine…and (a student) made chair after chair after chair,” Farritor said.

The demand is there for the studio, he said. When Farritor began pushing for the creation of Innovation Studio, he held the first meeting for the UNL Maker Club, a registered student organization dedicated to creating things, to gauge interest. About 240 people showed up to the first meeting, and now, there are 750 registered members.

Innovation Studio is only about one-third of the way completed and will cost about $1 million, according to Owad. Fundraising for the rest of the space will be tentatively completed in 2016 from which point construction plans will begin, according to Owad. The finished space will use 16,000 square feet and contain a film studio, kilns and more.

Owad said about $200,000 was provided by Chancellor Harvey Perlman for equipment and some electrical work. The university will continue to provide the space and salaries for some of the people working there said Farritor. However, the goal of the space isn’t to make money, he said.

“One of the drives is to keep costs low,” he said.

Owad said that undergraduate students would pay $15 and graduate students $20 a month to use the studio on a prorated system. Non-students would pay more with rates depending on different plans.

Farritor said that he hopes the studio will allow for students from all disciplines to mix and share ideas in an unparalleled environment.

“It’s a maker space unlike any other,” he said. “It’s going to be a world-class space with features designed to make it more innovative.”

Jay Carlson, president of UNL Maker Club, said that the space will provide opportunities for the city to come together.

“It’s time we had a space and a culture that facilitates and encourages students, faculty, staff and the broader Nebraska community to rediscover the power, entrepreneurship and sheer joy of building something uniquely your own,” Carlson said.