This entry is part 23 of 32 in the series Spring 2016


What would you do if you had a billion dollars? More importantly, what could you do? That’s the question Colorado State University asked itself: If we had a billion dollars, what could we do to make this amazing University even greater?

We could establish hundreds of scholarships across eight colleges, creating educational opportunities for students who otherwise might not have access to a CSU education; bolster existing teaching and research, allowing CSU to continue to attract the world’s leading minds to campus.

We could, for instance, build biology and chemistry buildings that match the quality of those programs and better prepare our students for impactful careers; establish the Institute for Biologic Translational Therapies and explore innovative treatments that improve animal and human health.

We could honor the legend and legacy of Sonny Lubick and name the field at the new on-campus stadium in his honor; create a museum to house CSU’s remarkable array of art.

We could do all of those things, and due to the early success of our “State your Purpose – The Campaign for Colorado State University,” we are well on our way.

The one-billion-dollar campaign is a testament to the growing philanthropic culture surrounding the University that has grown over time. Just eight years ago, CSU was able to raise around $50 million over the course of a fiscal year. Today, the University consistently breaks fundraising records, and has done so for the past five consecutive years. CSU now raises more than $150 million annually and is edging closer to the $200 million realm. These gifts, given with purpose, allow CSU to have remarkable impact on students and our world. It’s a movement, driven by passion.

Donors – friends, alumni, faculty, staff, students – have connected their passions to our community of builders, connectors, creators, explorers, healers, and nurturers. They are trying to change the world, one student, one program, one discovery at a time.

Builders, excited by transformation, have a knack for remaining practical and grounded as they forge ahead with goals. We are reimagining our campus to ensure we have the best facilities for our students.

Connectors believe in the power of community. See it in the eyes of one student using her CSU education to bring her people and the environment together for the future.

Explorers, adventurers like archaeologist Chris Fisher, forge into the unknown, relishing in discoveries that will link the past and the future.

Healers, like CSU’s Brian Foy, can combine science with compassion to drive groundbreaking research into infectious disease in the battle against an emerging epidemic.

Nurturers pave the way to a better future by teaching, caring, and supporting those in need, helping programs like Fostering Success to thrive.

Creators armed with tools like an Idea-2-Product Lab can envision and bring the next big thing to life.

State Your Purpose – The Campaign for Colorado State University has already raised $611 million towards its $1 billion goal. We’re taking on the challenge to move from “what could we do,” to “look at what we’re doing.”

Join us.


BUILDERS have a knack for remaining practical and grounded in their desires to forge ahead. Dependable, energetic, accomplished, and optimistic Builders can evolve with change and make room for growth.

Thanks to a $20 million anonymous gift, the tradition of Sonny Lubick Field will be transferred three miles from its current location at Hughes Stadium to the new on-campus stadium, which opens in 2017.

The announcement, met with enthusiastic approval from Colorado State University supporters, was made at a March 25 campus event.

“We are thrilled to continue to honor the legacy of one of the true greats in Colorado State history,” said Colorado State President and CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank. “Coach Sonny Lubick showed CSU how to win and be competitive at the highest levels — and in doing so, he helped set a trajectory that continues to this day. Sonny means so much to our community; it’s wonderful to honor him in this way.”

The move — repeating a field naming from a retiring facility to a new one — is thought to be unique. But when you look at Lubick’s influence, both in the Rams’ football program and in the community, honoring his legacy at the new stadium was the only logical option.

“Sonny created a path to what it means to be a CSU Ram. He’s an institutional treasure,” said Joe Parker, CSU’s director of athletics. “I don’t know that there’s anyone who has been honored in this way twice. The donor’s direction was to transfer Sonny Lubick’s name to the field at the new stadium, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”

Lubick’s tenure at CSU, which included a stint as an assistant coach in the 1980s before he was named head football coach prior to the 1993 season, is considered the greatest in the program’s history. He led the Rams to six conference titles and nine bowl games — seven more than all previous CSU coaches had earned.

More important, he changed the national perception of CSU football. The Rams had played in just two bowl games and had not won a conference title in nearly 40 years prior to his arrival, but he won the Western Athletic Conference championship in just his second year at the helm, qualifying for the first of his nine bowl games.

Over the course of his 15-year tenure, Lubick helped transform CSU football from unknown to household name. The Rams became fixtures on ESPN’s national Thursday night broadcasts and made regular appearances in national polls.

He coached five All-Americans, seven Academic All-Americans and more than 40 players who signed NFL contracts. Greg Myers, his two-time All-American safety, won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and was voted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 — just the second CSU player to earn that prestigious honor.

Beloved by his players, Lubick is still revered by the hundreds of student-athletes he coached. And he loved coaching them.

“For some reason our players bought in to what we coaches were selling, and that gave us a chance to be successful,” said Lubick, surrounded by family at the naming announcement. “So many of them have gone on to be successful, and I take great satisfaction in seeing them do so many great things. I was so proud to be their coach.”


Since the anonymous gift calls for naming the field only, CSU still has the opportunity to seek out a title sponsor for the stadium itself. That goes a long way toward successfully meeting fundraising goals for the $220 million facility.

“This gift agreement exceeds the amount we originally anticipated for both the stadium and field naming rights,” said Brett Anderson, vice president for university advancement. “The generous and selfless decision to make a gift and honor coach Lubick provides a huge assist to our funding model. We still have the ability to seek a stadium naming rights partner, which will further strengthen the project.”

Parker also announced that project construction, which began in late 2015, is both on time and on budget, while sales of premium seats in the new facility are at 100 percent of the goal to meet the stadium finance plan. Nearly 80 percent of all premium seats were sold more than 18 months prior to the stadium’s inaugural game against Abilene Christian.

“That’s really a strong statement relative to the team working on the project,” Parker said. “Everyone is working absolutely on point to make sure we produce a great facility.”

The gift was the second of two $20 million anonymous gifts to the university in less than a month after Frank’s Feb. 13 announcement of the $1 billion “State Your Purpose: Campaign for Colorado State University.” The first anonymous gift will help establish the Institute for Biologic Translational Therapies in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

CSU already is more than halfway to its $1 billion goal, with the stadium just one of many projects targeted for funding in the campaign. In addition to the IBTT in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the campaign will help fund new chemistry and biology buildings, support hundreds of student scholarships and help CSU attract and retain outstanding teachers and researchers.

For one day, though, it was all about Ram tradition. All about leaving a lasting legacy. All about Sonny.

The ever-humble Lubick appreciated that his name, which has been a part of the CSU and Fort Collins communities for nearly 40 years, would be carried forward at the new facility.

“To me, this isn’t just a tribute to one person, but to the entire football program — the players, coaches, staff, and fans who help make CSU great. We’re thrilled that our connection to the university and the program will continue in this way,” he said. “It was my great privilege, and a tremendous honor, to coach at CSU. I cherished every day. I am so grateful to this donor for this great honor.”


CONNECTORS have faith in the power of community. They see relationships between people and concepts that others may miss. Connectors show curiosity in others’ opinions and thrive on bringing people together.

Like many students at Colorado State University, junior Arielle Quintana wants to make the world a better place. But her situation is a little different than most of her peers on campus.

he is a member of Cochiti Pueblo, one of 19 Native American pueblos in New Mexico. Cochiti — as it is known — spans 54,000 acres of reservation land and has nearly 1,200 members.

Quintana describes the reservation as a very close-knit community with ties that bind the tribal members to history, culture, and their ancestors.

“Historically, when the Spanish culture came in, we held a really strong and close connection between all of us,” she explained. “During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the tribes united and pushed back against years of oppression that Native people faced. We said, ‘We know who we are, we don’t want our lives changed, our heritage erased, our culture erased.'”

Cochiti Pueblo is south of Santa Fe, situated along the Rio Grande River and against the Jemez Mountains. “We’re in the shrub lands of pinyon and juniper, and it’s really pretty,” Quintana said.

“What’s really special about the location is that we’re so close to the Rio Grande. That plays a huge role in our community,” she added. “I went to the river almost every week as a child growing up. It’s a beautiful place. We have historic, cultural and ancestral ties to the land. We have a relationship with all living things on the mountain.”


In 2011, the Las Conchas Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, raged for weeks north of the pueblo. It destroyed more than 156,000 acres of land, including Cochiti’s ancestral domain. The fire was devastating to many tribes and communities, and caused numerous environmental and health impacts.

Quintana was in high school when the fire hit and, as she described it, was just discovering her passion for natural resources.

“During my senior year, I took an environmental science class where we went to Cochiti to do restoration projects and to discuss different environmental issues that were impacting the tribe, the reservation and the ancestral domain,” she said.
Following that class, she set her sights on getting an education that would help her restore damaged lands, specifically those within the reservation’s jurisdictional and ancestral domain.

“I want to protect my tribe from different environmental impacts and to decrease those impacts when future natural disasters occur,” Quintana said. “The reason I’m here at CSU, specifically, and in the Warner College studying restoration ecology is because I want to learn how to restore damaged and degraded habitats and ecosystems.”

Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, professor in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship in the Warner College of Natural Resources and Quintana’s advisor, described her student as passionate, intelligent and courageous.

“Among the students from indigenous communities I have worked with, many share a commitment to bringing their knowledge back to their community, or with international students, to their country, to contribute to improving land stewardship,” she said. “However, among the wider student population, it is not so common for students to have such a strong commitment to returning to their home community following graduation.”


Quintana’s classes at CSU have focused on restoration of rangeland, forest, and riparian ecosystems, all of which are present on the pueblo. In addition to the Las Conchas Fire, Quintana said that other issues she may tackle include damage caused by floods,


EXPLORERS are curious about the world and believe that knowledge is valuable for its own sake. An adventurer at heart, Explorers know there will always be questions to ask, solutions to seek, and discoveries to make.

Getting to the legendary “City of the Jaguar” in the Mosquitia region of Honduras is not for the faint of heart.

Located deep within one of the world’s densest rain forests, the ancient site that has the archaeological world buzzing — previously dubbed the “White City” and the “City of the Monkey God” in some tales — is accessible only via helicopter. And while that may sound like a fine way to travel, consider that the Honduran army’s “fleet” of a small handful of choppers is old and flying conditions are less than ideal.

“It’s very intense flying in there — really scary,” said Chris Fisher, the College of Liberal Arts professor serving as lead archaeologist on the project, referring to his most recent trip in January. “I really hate it, but it’s the only way to get in there.”

Fisher describes the area around the site as “incredibly dense and spectacularly beautiful” — as well as virtually inaccessible. And because of that, he never forgets that he is working in a place few, if any, humans have seen in the 500 or so years prior to Fisher’s first journey there in early 2015 with an international team of researchers and explorers.

He told the story about one of his former CSU students hired to help excavate the site when the team returned in January. The young scientist was doing the meticulous work of archaeology, using a screen to search a soil sample for manmade material. He felt something hit his arm. A drop of blood. Then another. And another.

“I’m bleeding!” he cried.

But he was mistaken. The blood came from above him, in the trees. A spider monkey was giving birth, right over the site.

“It was amazing to watch. That was a reminder of the place in which we were working,” Fisher said. “It’s so unspoiled, so remote. It’s a treasure.”
But not so remote that the team didn’t have Honduran soldiers standing guard. The soldiers are ever-present — always a group to protect the archaeological team and the site from looters, and always another group helping with the tedious task of excavation.

In addition, representatives of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez were on site throughout the 25- day venture to begin excavation of the site first identified by LiDAR (light detection and ranging) in 2012. Fisher and his team — which included two of his former CSU students, Honduran scientists, and representatives from the National Geographic Society — were trying to take advantage of a brief window when the rains that fall year-round relent just a bit.
Fisher still shakes his head when talking about the experience. After years of quietly — anonymously, really — working archaeological sites in Mexico, his every move was now being watched.

“It was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “The president came to the site three times, and there were cameras documenting pretty much everything we did. At times there were twice as many people watching as there were doing the actual excavating.”

Call it archaeology with an audience.

Fisher, however, would do it all over again.

“It’s a physical and mental grind to be in that environment, but I returned because the artifacts were in danger,” he said. “I felt I had a moral and ethical responsibility to remove the objects that were threatened and stabilize the rest of the site to prevent it from being damaged or looted.”


The primary aim of the mission was to excavate a small (18 square meters) cache of artifacts. On the first trip to the site, Fisher and the team found more than 50 artifacts, many of them broken into pieces, which Fisher theorizes was used as a ritualistic “closing ceremony for the site, like a cleansing.”

Soil at the site is highly acidic, so the everyday trash that might offer clues about the previously unknown people who inhabited the site had disintegrated. Still, the acquired knowledge was well worth the trip.

And one of the discovered artifacts was particularly intriguing.

Standing in the middle of the cache was a basalt statue, likely carved with obsidian, of a jaguar or parrot with its arms raised. Fisher had never seen anything like it.

“It’s probably the most fantastic thing I’ve ever found,” he said. “The carving is very intricate, very detailed. It’s a very, very incredible find.”

The statue and the other discoveries from the site were celebrated almost immediately in Honduras. Orlando Hernandez, whose country is in economic turmoil, has big tourism plans for the site and other ancient discoveries, hoping to capitalize on the world’s fascination with the finds.

Fisher, while keenly interested in what seeing what other remarkable artifacts the site might yield, has a much broader interest in the project.

The people who built this city are largely unknown and believed to be a distinct culture. Fisher wants to study the still-hidden houses in the area to learn more about the everyday lives of the inhabitants — and why they decided to leave what appears to be a thriving city.

“In terms of archaeological finds, this is not Machu Picchu, but it is very significant,” he said. “In terms of better understanding this region and filling this gap on the map, this is really important. This is a complex, advanced people, but we really know very little about them. That’s very exciting.”

And Fisher’s knowledge of LiDAR and its potential for discovery are leading the way – on this project and as archaeology enters a new era.


For the better part of two centuries, archaeology has been the science of discovery, good fortune and tedium. Lots and lots of tedium.

Some of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries – Machu Picchu in Peru, the great pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, the Terra Cotta Army in China and dozens of others – took decades to excavate and still are being studied decades later.

Several of those great discoveries were made via dumb luck. The Terra Cotta Army, for example, was discovered by farmers digging a water well. The remains of King Richard III, missing for centuries, were discovered recently under a parking lot in Leicester, England.

But Fisher is taking a lead role as the traditional methodology of archaeology is evolving at a dizzying pace. And because of his work with LiDAR, which uses computer-generated images taken from the air to reveal architectural features hidden by vegetation, long-held notions about civilizations in the Americas could be turned upside down.

Following a suggestion by Stephen Leisz, associate professor of geography at CSU, Fisher used LiDAR to reveal architectural features of a city of 30,000 in western Mexico in 2011. Fisher estimated LiDAR saved 10 years of traditional excavation by hand.

Fisher was contacted in 2012 by an international research team interested in the Honduras site to analyze LiDAR images. Fisher and Leisz pored over the images and determined there were enough significant architectural features to merit further exploration.

Thus, the search for the previously unknown city was born.

But for Fisher, the greater story is how the use of LiDAR will change archaeology.

“We’ve demonstrated that there is still much to discover in the 21st century,” he said. “Sparking the public interest and getting people excited about archaeology – that’s huge for our discipline. That’s the real value of this project.

“Honestly, everywhere we point LiDAR, we find stuff. Our understanding of the Americas and archaeology in general is based on a handful of case studies in which scientists walked the ground and then spent years excavating. Now, we can get a topical look at a large area in a couple of days.

“I think we’re going to discover that the Americas were much more densely populated than we ever imagined. We’re going to use technology to turn conventional thinking on its ear.”


HEALERS connect science with compassion. They mend, soothe, revive, and renew. Whether it’s medicine, health, or the environment, quality of life – and ensuring that for others – is a top priority.

Nearly eight years ago, a Colorado State University researcher who studies mosquito-borne diseases predicted one of the hottest current topics in the world of infectious pathogens: that Zika virus could be sexually transmitted.

His hunch would mean a virus, which then lurked in the shadows, might be spread both sexually and by mosquitoes, making Zika an unusual public-health threat.

Brian Foy, a researcher with the Arthropod-Borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory (AIDL), ordinarily investigates malaria. But while on a trip to Senegal in 2008, he unknowingly contracted Zika virus through a mosquito bite — and later deduced that he had transmitted the virus to his wife. This route of Zika virus infection was unknown in scientific circles until Foy and colleagues published a research paper about his case in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2011.

Fast-forward to today. Zika has exploded into an epidemic in equatorial nations and has put the United States on high alert. Foy’s earlier observations form a front-burner topic confirmed by other scientists, and he and his CSU colleagues are leveraging knowledge about flaviviruses — the genus that includes Zika virus — to better understand the viral dynamics behind the current epidemic.

“Right here in Colorado, we have the best collection of experts in the world studying viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, like dengue, Zika, West Nile, and yellow fever,” said Gregory Ebel, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and director of AIDL.

Ebel’s team in recent months has worked around the clock to clone Zika virus, a first step in understanding how it replicates, behaves, and mutates. The team received a pure sample of the virus from counterparts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

A group of AIDL faculty members, students, and postdoctoral fellows has also been working diligently to measure the efficiency of Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes and to develop rapid diagnostics. The CSU team works closely with the CDC Arbovirus Diseases Branch, which is a stone’s throw away from the AIDL on the Foothills Campus.

Cloning the virus is an essential step to understand what parts of the virus contribute to its transmission, and what parts cause a brain defect known as microcephaly in fetuses.

BioMARC, an FDA-approved manufacturing plant opened on the Foothills Campus in 2006, stands ready to create the preventive measures.

The long-standing expertise of AIDL researchers in studying flaviviruses like Zika led to CSU receiving the call when the National Institutes of Health mobilized the research community in the struggle against Zika.

NIH tapped Rushika Perera, assistant professor in the Department of Micro-biology, Immunology and Pathology, to identify small molecule biomarkers in the blood, saliva and urine of Zika virus patients in Nicaragua. This work may lead to an enhanced understanding of why Zika is causing disease in people, and help identify infections early so that interventions can be more successful.

Ebel also recently received support from NIH based on his continuing work on the West Nile flavivirus. He will be directing these new resources toward understanding how Zika virus transmission is influenced by chikungunya and dengue viruses, which are both transmitted by the same mosquitoes. Ebel said he expects additional support from NIH, and will facilitate studies in his lab on how Zika is likely to evolve as it spreads and how this may influence transmission and disease.

“Our university is uniquely positioned to conduct research on mosquito-borne viruses,” said CSU Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph. “We have exceptional cutting-edge science and technology, including a surveillance system that exploits new approaches to amplify mosquito and human biomarkers and the viral pathogens they carry. We also have a unique capability in translating that knowledge into rapid action, including manufacturing of new vaccines at BioMARC. These capabilities represent a novel integrated-systems approach to agile and resilient response to infectious diseases.”

Ultimately, CSU researchers hope to develop new methods to prevent and treat infection from Zika virus. Such controls have gained urgency with increasing evidence that Zika virus is to blame for microcephaly in infants Foy chuckled when asked if he had ever imagined becoming the poster boy for Zika virus. “The best you can hope for is that you’re discovering something new and that somebody will pay attention to it,” he said.

“We had found something that had never been discovered, and having the paper published gave us the ability to get our story out there in a notable journal. It’s kind of amazing to think about.”


NURTURERS appreciate the present but understand that a better tomorrow means fostering, teaching, caring, and supporting today. This core value draws you in to issues surrounding education, well-being, and justice.

Rachel Hernandez was forced to grow up in a hurry. Her dad was never in the picture, and her mom struggled with substance abuse.

Her grandmother raised Hernandez and her four siblings, including an older sister who has a disability. When her grandmother passed away in 2005, to avoid the possibility of the five being sent to separate foster homes, an aunt took them in, on top of her own two children and another nephew she was already raising. But that meant the aunt couldn’t work, so Hernandez got her first job at age 13, tutoring and teaching computer classes at The Bridge Project in Denver. Then came positions at Little Caesar’s, Kmart, Lowe’s, and Blackjack Pizza. Hernandez and another sister worked to help raise rent money — and did much of the housework.

“We kind of took on the father responsibility,” she says.

The family lived in a Denver subsidized housing project in a tough neighborhood where Hernandez says there was more than one drive-by shooting.

“If you walked down the street, you couldn’t wear certain colors because they were associated with gangs,” she recalls.

“You tried to be a good kid who isn’t worried about that stuff, but often your friends were involved.”

Hernandez was 13 the first time she ran away from home and moved in with a mentor from Denver Kids, Inc. In high school she left home again, moving into an apartment with a friend. While Hernandez enjoyed playing several sports in her youth, she says the K-12 school system didn’t exactly prepare her for college.

“If you turned in the work, you got an A,” she says. “I took school as a joke.”
In Hernandez’s family, who are Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge, S.D., her aunt was the only one of 13 children to graduate from high school.

“College was my biggest dream, because most of my family were high school dropouts,” she says.

Today, Hernandez is making that dream come true as a first-year Colorado State University student studying social work. She first visited CSU in 2013 as part of the Native Education Forum, established a connection with the Native American Cultural Center, and decided that she liked the people and the beautiful campus. She is the first recipient of the Pinnacle Scholarship, a full-ride award renewable for up to four years given to former foster kids who demonstrate financial need.


Hernandez credits CSU’s Fostering Success Program with easing the transition to college. Fostering Success was created through the Division of Student Affairs by a group of graduate students and staff from across campus in fall 2010 to assist students who had aged out of the foster care system and no longer had families for support or a place to go home to during university breaks. The program began with simply sending care packages to students on campus who identified as former foster youth. The program now serves more than 200 students from a variety of independent backgrounds, and has expanded beyond care packages to provide support all the way from the admission process through graduation.

“You can always go to them and they have open arms, no matter what it is,” Hernandez says. “Even if you need sheets for your bed. They bought me my first comforter.”

The Fostering Success packages she’s received have contained notes of encouragement, snacks, candy, and gifts — her favorite was a CSU beanie. Hernandez says the program provides assistance with everything from tutoring to financial issues to time management to food and clothing banks. Fostering Success also hosts dinners for the students it serves, which was a novel concept for Hernandez.

“We never ate at the table when I was growing up,” she says. “At Fostering Success, they make us feel like we’re family. Everyone supports each other.”

“Rachel’s childhood was not ideal, far from it,” says Jennie Baran, assistant director of student case management in CSU’s Division of Student Affairs, which administers the Fostering Success Program. “She has overcome neglect, abuse, insecurity, and fear. Despite all this hardship she shows up with a smile on her face, a positive outlook on life, and a willingness to give others a second chance.

I am frequently lifted up by Rachel’s positive attitude and energy.”

Hernandez sees her college career as a way out of the environment she grew up in. She works at Golden Corral in Thornton on the weekends, but looks forward to getting a better job, getting married, having kids, and buying a house that can someday be left to them.

Hernandez wants her children to be raised under a different set of circumstances. “I don’t want them to worry about wearing blue because they’re on the north side,” she says. “And I definitely want to give back to my aunt, because she’s been through so much. She kept us together.”

Things are looking up for Hernandez; she will study abroad in Costa Rica this summer.

But her journey has still been rocky at times. One of her brothers has been in and out of jail since he was 12.

“He’s the reason I want to become a probation officer,” she says.

And last year, she lost her mother to kidney failure and a different brother to leukemia. She leaned on a friend she had made through Fostering Success.

“She held my hand my first day back from my mom’s funeral service,” Hernandez says.

“During her first year, I have seen Rachel become an involved student, an excellent student, and overcome obstacles most students don’t deal with at that age,” says Tiffani Kelly, assistant director of the Native American Cultural Center. “She has dealt with a lot, both personally and academically this year, but never once complained. She asked for help, but even when she was in pain, she maintained a positive attitude and worked hard to make sure she stayed on track. Rachel is truly a remarkable human being, and I’m so happy she’s involved in our office because she brings such a great energy and light to the space.”

Before he died, her brother made Hernandez promise him that she’d graduate from college.

“I don’t want to disappoint him, I want to make him proud,” she says. “This isn’t a pity story, I just want someone who’s going through what I went through to be inspired. I want people to look at my story and keep fighting. We went through a lot, but that never stopped me from pursuing my dream.”

“All of us in the Fostering Success Program are rooting for Rachel’s success and looking forward to great things that she will achieve following graduation,” Baran says. “She is an inspiration.”


CREATORS have a passion to express. Whether through words, images, music, movement, or material, Creators are always looking for a way to bring the next big thing to life.

A disease called spinal muscular atrophy confines 8-year-old Arianna Fischer of Stewartville, Minn., to a wheelchair and a ventilator. It’s small things like playing with her dolls that bring Arianna joy.

Enter the 3D printing wizards at Colorado State University’s 3D printing lab, Idea-2-Product (I2P). Working with Angel Arms LLC of Grand Valley State University, I2P printed Arianna a custom-fit, durable, polycarbonate exoskeleton that acts as a support system for her arms – and allows her to play again.

As stories like Arianna’s illustrate, 3D printing is changing the world. And for David Prawel, head of the Idea-2-Product lab, the possibilities seem limitless.


Prawel is associate director of the Biomaterials Research and Engineering Laboratory under Sue James, professor and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Three years ago, as Prawel tells it, “yet another brilliant CSU student” got him dreaming about a place for entrepreneurs and others to turn their creative juices into actual products.

With support from James, small seed grants, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and a generous gift from Autodesk, Prawel developed a plan for a community-access, educational 3D printing lab. Idea- 2-Product was born in the basement of the Engineering Building.

Since then, the enterprise has more than doubled in size, with 14 3D printers of various types, three 3D scanners, and a constant hum of activity. On any given day each semester, every printer is churning out this or that prototype, project or design. For example, in March I2P hosted students from Phoenix Garage, a Fort Collins project led by Steve Koehmstedt that gets kids working on green projects. In this case, they were printing parts for an electric motorcycle.

Yet it’s mainly CSU students who use the lab, and it’s most popular among engineering students, not surprisingly.

The lab offers weekly free trainings, and Prawel teaches a regular course on additive manufacturing.

“This has been no different than building any other business,” said Prawel — an entrepreneur in a former life – who oversees the lab but doesn’t profit from it. “It’s been a really crazy, fun ride. And every day, I get to see some of the most creative people in our community chasing their dreams.”


For the newcomer, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is the process of making three-dimensional, solid objects from digital information, such as a computer-aided design (CAD) or scanned file. The printers seen most often today in businesses, homes, and places such as Morgan Library use plastic filament or resin as the “ink.” It’s the philosophical opposite of a computerized router or CNC machine; rather than cutting away material to make something, 3D printing deposits material, layer by layer, toward a finished product.

David South, a junior microbiology major who works at I2P, fell in love with 3D printing after becoming a lab user his sophomore year. “I really like that you can make something completely out of nothing, and have it in a couple hours,” South said. “In the past, that was impossible – you had to carve or machine it.”


The list of things people come in and print is dizzying. One psychology graduate student wanted scale models of brains suffering from certain psychoses. A local entrepreneur asked for help scanning and printing custom orthotics. And a local artist wanted a mold for an intricately carved sculpture. One of Idea-2-Product’s first customers was Toddy Coffee, which needed some quick design help and rapidly printed parts for their products. Today, Toddy Coffee has its own 3D printer.

“Any day of the week, you can walk into the lab and find a bunch of new things on the printers, from a custom trumpet mouthpiece to a piece of artwork, a molecular model to a copy of a horse bone from the vet school,” said Ray Huff, another student staff member.

According to Prawel, student staff like South and Huff are the heartbeat of Idea- 2-Product; they run day-to-day operations, maintain the machines, keep the schedule, train users, and consult on projects. I2P isn’t a service bureau; it’s a place where people are empowered to pursue their own ideas.

Last year, I2P counted 1,860 user sessions — people who needed to create something, used I2P to learn how to make it, and got it done. “And anyone can do this,” Prawel says.

While I2P functions as a learning experience for students, it’s also a public facility open to all. The City of Fort Collins kicks in some support on behalf of local companies who use the services Prawel and his students provide.

In recent years, 3D printing has taken on a maker-community vibe; anyone can design, make, and sell unique products on sites like Thingiverse and Shapeways. But as with any emerging technology, new ideas are being explored by creative minds pushing the boundaries. Now, bioprinters employ a syringe pump to print cell-seeded, living body parts, like heart valves and ears.

I2P will soon acquire a bioprinter, along with a new photopolymer printer that will be especially great for making things like jewelry and biotech, or medical devices. There are other printers for food, and printers for metal. Some researchers want to customize 3D printing for space applications — think printing custom parts and tools for the International Space Station.

3D printing as it is today has a home at universities like CSU, tasked with equipping students for the workforce. A recent report by Wanted Analytics found that the number of job ads requiring workers with 3D printing skills increased 1,834 percent from 2010 to 2014. Large companies like General Electric are investing millions into additive manufacturing. GE was the first company to fly a 3D-printed metal part in an airplane engine.