Nebraska Innovation Studio celebrating marked growth

· 3 min read

Nebraska Innovation Studio celebrating marked growth

Open house slated for Sept. 16
Jerry Reif, shop manager at Nebraska Innovation Studio, watches as a plasma cutter cuts through steel.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Jerry Reif, shop manager at Nebraska Innovation Studio, watches as a plasma cutter cuts through steel.

Since Nebraska Innovation Studio opened its doors in 2015, the makerspace has continued to retool and expand its offerings, becoming one of the best facilities of its kind in the nation.

The metamorphosis of NIS will be celebrated with a grand reopening event from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at the studio, 2021 Transformation Drive, Suite 1500, Entrance B, on Nebraska Innovation Campus. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, will include refreshments, tours of NIS, demonstrations and displays of finished art and products made at the studio. Registration is suggested but not required, and can be completed here.

When NIS opened six years ago, the large studio space boasted a broad selection of tools — a laser cutter, two 3D printers, table saw, band saw, CNC router, workbenches, hand tools, screen printing station, vinyl cutter, throwing wheels and a kiln — but the floor plan left room to grow.

Innovation Studio
Greg Nathan | University Communication
Carly Brotherson pulls sock blocks from the laser cutter at Nebraska Innovation Studio in November 2019.

Since then, private donations have allowed for added capabilities, including a wood shop, metal-working shop, four additional lasers, eight more 3D printers, an embroidery machine and more. Soon, the studio will add a 44-inch Canon photo printer and additional photo software.

David Martin, director of NIS, said the grand reopening is an opportunity to thank donors and welcome the public back to the new and improved NIS.

“The transformation has been pretty spectacular in six years, and we want to show our early supporters the seed they planted has bloomed,” Martin said. “Many haven’t been in since the pandemic began. We had just opened our metal shop right before the shutdown, when we had to close for five months.”

The NIS staff remained busy during the shutdown, when they produced 33,000 face shields for medical staff on the front lines of the pandemic and led a large group of community volunteers to make disposable protective gowns for first responders.

NIS face shields Jerry Reif
Greg Nathan | University Communication
NIS staff spent the COVID-19 shutdown cutting parts for and assembling 33,000 face shields for medical staff.

But since the doors reopened in August 2020, usage of NIS has ticked up with each passing month. University of Nebraska–Lincoln students make up about half of the membership, with the other half coming from Lincoln-area artists, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and veterans’ programs.

“Nebraska Innovation Studio has become the community of makers we envisioned when it was in the planning stages,” said Shane Farritor, a professor of mechanical and materials engineering and member of the Nebraska Innovation Campus advisory committee that led the effort to build NIS.

A classroom has brought a new element to the studio, allowing faculty and community groups to teach and learn in a hands-on way.

“Every semester, we host four or five classes,” Martin said. “This semester, we have two architecture classes, an Emerging Media Arts class and a screen printing class.”

The studio and its staff also host and advise student groups, including the university’s Theme Park Design Group and Engineering to Change the World; and the Nebraska Big Red Satellite project, where Nebraska Aerospace Club students mentor eighth- through 11th-graders chosen by NASA to build a cube satellite to test solar power generation.

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