NDSU’s digital fabrication lab fosters interdisciplinary tech projects

A new tech lab at NDSU is intended to bring students together from across disciplines for hands-on projects.

The digital fabrication lab sports 3D printers, CNC machines and more, and its near future will see the addition of a laser cutter.

Andrew Elznic, the university’s emerging technology coordinator in the digital fabrication lab, will present at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, April 10.

Elznic started in his position in June. He has a fine arts degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, but he also has a degree in industrial design. The two together inform his approach with the digital fabrication lab, which emphasizes students working across majors and fields with each other.

“What I’m focusing on is not what machines can we get, but what culture can we create in the lab?” Elznic said. He hopes the lab will foster innovation.

Prior to coming to NDSU, Elznic worked in a similar capacity for a similar lab at University of Wisconsin Stout.

Working on projects in the lab will hopefully provide students not only with practice on its hardware tools, but also acclimate them to the type of connective, outside-the-box thinking those tools can inspire.

“There is obviously the skillset that you can highlight,” Elznic said, “but I think honestly what you get from this is the prototyping process that employers are really excited about… Students being able to go through that process makes a stronger student.”

The lab’s position in the university’s library might strike some as unorthodox at first, but Elznic is happy about it for effectively opening the lab to a greater number of students’ use.

“I think this is the best, most democratic way to allow all students access,” he said.

That access is a top priority for Elznic, who stated he sometimes gently connects people who are coming into the lab separately to see what they can bring to each other’s ideas.

The lab’s first semester was its beta phase, and Elznic looks forward to what its future holds.

“Realistically, yes, this is an opening,” he said, “but I think there’s greater openings in the future.”

The lab’s location in close proximity to Fargo’s business culture also holds potential for collaboration in the future.

“There’s an entrepreneurial engine here that really excites me,” Elznic said.

For more information on NDSU’s digital fabrication lab, visit library.ndsu.edu/locations/digital-fabrication-lab. 1 Million Cups Fargo takes place each Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

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Austin Gerth