aerial view of space rendering
November 18, 2021

The Digital Fabrication Lab, located in the Main Library, is an accessible and inclusive workspace that provides tools, training, and support to design and produce prototypes and projects for personal, academic, and professional use. NDSU Libraries Emerging Technologies Services Coordinator Adam Elznic describes the lab as "a space where students can try new ideas, develop skills, and meet other people who are interested in experimenting with new technology. We are a diverse group of people who bring different perspectives, experiences, and skills to one shared space."

In Spring 2021, a group of NDSU Interior Design students who are now seniors–Carolyn Hoffmann, Hannah Schumacher, Jesse Price, Kendra Borgen, and Parker Johnson–created a proposal to redesign the Digital Fabrication Lab as a class project with Dr. Susan Ray-Degges, Professor and Interior Design Program Coordinator. The students envision the redesigned lab as a collaborative, inspiring space for their peers to express their creativity, learn new skills, and showcase their work. One of the highlights of their proposal is the Collaboration Suite, which will adjoin the current lab space and feature individual workstations, flexible seating, and a SMART Board for students to practice presentations and collaborate on projects and assignments (rendering seen on left). Parker Johnson states, "A student having a reliable space to go to and focus on their studies is truly something special and being a part of this project was a great experience as it showed me what students need on campus and how to help." Carolyn Hoffmann comments on the project, "This redesign will change how some students might study and use their resources on campus for a better education." View more renderings and photos related to the project below.

The Libraries provided NDSU's first 3D printing service in 2014, which has been transformed into the Digital Fabrication Lab. Elznic and student technicians work enthusiastically throughout the year to provide knowledge and hands-on support to students working in the lab. Elznic remembers in 2018 when the lab went from a carpeted study room into the space it is now, and is "excited that we will be entering into another phase of development by utilizing the design the interior design students researched and developed." At NDSU President Bresciani’s 2019 State of the University Address, he stated, "these hands-on centers of applied creative technologies will unlock the door of what students have learned in the classroom and allow for active development of their ideas." Hanna Schumacher states, "The Digital Fabrication Lab is an important part of campus and allows students to showcase their creativity. It also allows students to make friends and collaborate on different projects. We are fortunate enough to have access to these unique machines and learn a new skill set."

The interior design students noted that the experience gave them a unique real-world opportunity to make an effective change and expand their education. Kendra Borgen states, "I believe it is important for students to participate in co-op experiences such as the redesign of the Digital Fabrication Lab as it involves the students into the campus they attend, and allows them to be creative, gain relationships, and gain experiences." Jesse Price states, "It is great to gain real-life experiences with design opportunities before graduation because it allows us to speak with professionals, work as a team, and create a space that can be used by our peers."

The Libraries actively seek ways to collaborate with campus partners on teaching, learning, and research, and we are encouraged by Dr. Ray-Degges’ continued advocacy of our mission. Dr. Ray-Degges states, "Collaborating with the library has been key for student success. Throughout my time at NDSU, the library has played a pivotal role impacting positive student learning. Without the resources made so readily available for our students, they would not have the necessary materials to complete programming and other necessary activities that are critical to successful learning outcomes. These combined experiences with the library have resulted in positive interactions with our program and our students." 

The Digital Fabrication Lab has received various grants over the last few years that have been crucial to its development. Most recently, a group of NDSU faculty and Libraries staff received a ND EPSCoR State Office STEM grant to acquire two portable 3D laser scanners that are available for checkout to all faculty, staff, and students (see The Libraries Magazine Volume 4, p.12, for more details). Over the next year, Elznic and his staff plan to offer new software training, CAD classes, and design workshops that will help further students’ understanding of digital fabrication and the new emerging technologies that are being implemented into the library and campus.  

We are very excited and inspired by the students’ vision and ask for your support on NDSU Giving Day 2021 to help fund this project and bring the students' proposal for the Digital Fabrication Lab and the Collaboration Suite to fruition. Thank you for helping us in our efforts to enrich teaching, learning, and research at NDSU!

Renderings courtesy of Carolyn Hoffmann, Hannah Schumacher, Jesse Price, Kendra Borgen, and Parker Johnson