Cooper Foundation helps launch Nebraska makerspace

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ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Liana Owad, center, coordinator for the Nebraska Innovation Studio, leads students on a tour of the construction site of Nebraska’s first makerspace, a place where anyone will be able to go to create.

In the long tradition of helping new projects and programs succeed, the Cooper Foundation of Lincoln has provided a grant of $200,000 to support the blossoming Nebraska Innovation Studio, a 16,000-square-foot makerspace located in the Innovation Commons Building at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln.

“This charter investment in Nebraska Innovation Studio embodies one of the hallmarks of Cooper Foundation grant making,” said Jack Campbell, chairman of the board of trustees of the Cooper Foundation. “We strive to provide early investment in ventures of significant promise, and the development of this makerspace certainly fits the bill.”

The one-of-a-kind place for all kinds of makers will let students, faculty members and the community design, prototype, create and learn. The studio will provide membership access to high-end equipment, classes on a variety of ways to make things and access to an innovative community.

The studio will offer a wide-range of equipment available to its members, including tools for 3D printing and prototyping, woodworking, metal working, welding, sewing, screen printing, electronics, robotics and more.

With the support from Cooper Foundation, plans for the studio are now getting off the ground, said Shane Farritor, professor of mechanical and materials engineering and faculty adviser to the UNL Maker Club.

“This is a significant gift for us, and really changes the trajectory of our plans for Innovation Studio,” Farritor said. “This support will also have a huge impact on our students, who will benefit most from this makerspace.”

Makerspaces are a growing trend, but Nebraska Innovation Studio will be unique. No other makerspace features an in-house business accelerator and the close proximity of tenant companies and research labs offered by the Nebraska Innovation Campus community.

Dan Duncan, executive director of Nebraska Innovation Campus, said, “Innovation Studio will enable students and the community to unleash their creativity, which will go a long way in helping us develop the type of culture we want for all of NIC.”

Once complete, everyone who enters the studio will be greeted by a gallery that celebrates the creative and inspired items being made within this place. It will be named the Cooper Foundation Makers Gallery in recognition of the foundation’s support for the program and its tradition of helping the university.

“This initiative celebrates innovation and creativity in a tangible way, and in supporting it, we continue the strong tradition of partnership between the Cooper Foundation and the University of Nebraska,” said Campbell.

With the building space provided by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the Nebraska Innovation Studio has partnered with the University of Nebraska Foundation to raise $4.2 million in private donations needed to build out the studio and to equip it. The studio will be completed in phases as funds are available, and the grant from Cooper Foundation enables it to move forward with phase one of construction.

To learn about ways to support the Nebraska Innovation Studio, contact James Keim at the University of Nebraska Foundation at 402-458-1140 or

For more information about Nebraska Innovation Studio, contact Coordinator Liana Owad at 402-472-5510 or

The Cooper Foundation: Celebrating a Legacy of Support for the University of Nebraska

The Cooper Foundation has made important philanthropic investments in the University of Nebraska for more than 70 years. Here’s a look back at some of the ways it has made a difference:

1943: Began providing major support for the university’s dairy herd program.

1946: Donated 23 Holstein cows and two bulls from J.H. Cooper’s herd to the university’s dairy program valued at $85,550.

1947-48:  Donated $63,000 to support campus beautification from R to S streets and 12th to 14th streets, including the sprinkler system and a landscape architect.

1953-57: Initiated and then provided additional support of more than $19,000 for Frances Lee Jacques dioramas at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Morrill Hall.

1954-55: Created the Joseph H. Cooper Memorial Fund with a gift of $100,000 in support of multiple programs.

1964: Established the permanently endowed Cooper Foundation Development Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation for academic and program support at the university; the fund is currently valued at more than $330,000.

1977: Donated $375,000 to support the university’s then new Merit Scholarship Program in memory of former trustees of the Cooper Foundation.

1981: Established the Cooper Foundation Special Projects Fund, an expendable fund, to support educational and research projects.

1984: Donated $310,000 to provide early support for construction of the Lied Center for Performing Arts. E.N. Thompson, then president of the Cooper Foundation, served as co-chair of the Lied Center’s fundraising campaign, together with D.B. “Woody” Varner.

1987, 1989 and 1990: Established and continued to support the expendable fund to support the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues. The first event in the new Lied Center for Performing Arts featured Robin Wright, journalist and author and expert on the Middle East, speaking about Iran.  Also provided major support for the Nebraska Legislature’s statewide study of higher education and for the University of Nebraska State Museum for traveling exhibitions and for creation of the Cooper Gallery at the State Museum for travelling exhibits.

1992: Donated $7,500 for the writing lab in the College of Business Administration named after former Cooper Foundation Trustee, E.J. Faulkner, and $5,000 to help publish the work “Flat Water: A History of Nebraska and Its Water.”

1994: Donated $22,000 to support the comprehensive sculpture catalog of the Sheldon Museum of Art.

1996: Provided support for the Visual/Spatial Learning Program through the College of Fine and Performing Arts

2001: Donated $15,000 to support the International Quilt Study Center exhibition, “A Flowering of Quilts.”

2002: Continued support for the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues which featured Mikhail Gorbachev, Mary Pipher, Bono, Ashley Judd, Dr. Eric Goosby, Lance Armstrong and others.

2003: Donated more than $116,000 to provide support for Nebraska Educational Television, the Department of Anthropology and Geography, the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center and more.

2006: Donated $14,000 to support the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and The Walt Whitman Archive project.

2007: Donated more than $21,000 to support the inaugural exhibition of the new International Quilt Study Center and Museum, including a catalogue and materials for “Drawing Connections: the Art and Design of Quilts.”

2010: Made a $400,000 gift commitment to support the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues as part of the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, and donated $20,000 to support the Platte Basin Time Lapse Project.

2011-12: Donated $25,000 to support the Platte Basin Time Lapse Project website and for placement of remote cameras and capturing the resulting photos.

2015: Provided a leadership gift of $200,000 for Phase I construction of the Nebraska Innovation Studio, the first comprehensive Makerspace in Nebraska, located at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

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