Collin Braeuning went to his first meeting of The DEN for the free sub sandwiches and chicken tenders when he was a freshman. He stayed for the passion and now, two years later, serves as the program’s student leader.

“These people were just so excited about the products and the companies they had made, and I wanted to be part of that,” he said.

Collin Braeuning looks at a window full of sticking notes with his team at a meeting of The DEN.

Collin Braeuning looks at a window full of sticking notes with his team at a meeting of The DEN.

The DEN gives students a chance to share ideas for products and businesses and to form teams to develop those ideas. They receive instant feedback from professionals, faculty members and student peers in weekly meetings.

Braeuning, a junior from North Charleston, spends a lot of his time planning meetings, setting up outreach events and looking for CEOs and other business leaders to speak to students.

It’s one example of how the computer engineering major has set aside his own business and device ideas to support the work of others.

Braeuning is dreaming big. One of his largest projects is a proposal to turn a soon-to-be-vacated bookstore into makerspace that would be packed with equipment, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, that students could use to create new things.

It’s part of Creative Inquiry, an undergraduate research program, and is packaged as the Network for Innovation and Marketable Skills.

Braeuning, the network’s lead, has begun researching how much money and square footage Top-20 universities are dedicating to makerspace. Clemson has about 600 square feet of centralized makerspace, but expanding it to be more competitive would support several University initiatives, including the ClemsonForward strategic plan, he said.

“We see this as something the University would hopefully like to invest in and provide for its students,” Braeuning said. “Employers like to see undergraduate students coming out with experience. Laser cutting, woodworking and metalworking — that’s something that can set us apart from other local schools, especially in South Carolina.”

A website he is creating summarizes the makerspace options already available to students across campus.

Bre Przestrzelski, the co-founder of The DEN and its first student lead, worked with Braeuning when he was just starting out in the program. It was easier than she thought to turn over the reins to him when she graduated last spring with her Ph.D. in bioengineering.

“That’s all to Collin’s credit,” said Przestrzelski, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of San Diego. “He was somebody who took the time while I was still there to shadow me, to be mentored by me to do the hard work.  But he also has the sincere passion for this, and that’s not something you can build in someone. He just naturally brings that with him to his work with The DEN. ”

Braeuning is also a University Innovation Fellow. He and four other students went to Stanford University for several days to learn how to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity on campus.

He was a natural fit for the program, said John DesJardins, the Robert B. and Susan B. Hambright Leadership Associate Professor of Bioengineering.

“He’s just been one who takes every opportunity in engineering and entrepreneurship,” DesJardins said. “He has really enjoyed the process of becoming a leader of his peers in that domain. He’s going on all cylinders all the time.”