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Project Design Studio

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The Project Design Studio brings groups of students together in a co-working space for brainstorming, prototyping, and extended project management. Access is offered on a long-term basis—from several weeks to multiple semesters—in order to sustain the entire lifecycle of a project. With flexible workspaces and programming that facilitates the development of collaboration skills, the Project Design Studio brings to life the University Libraries’ mission to provide cutting-edge services and support emerging research practices.

The University Libraries at Virginia Tech developed the Studios Network as a means to lower barriers to the spaces, resources, and communities that support collaboration, innovation, and creativity. Our spaces are designed to be as open as possible, allowing folks from across the campus community to engage our services.

The Project Design Studio was envisioned as a space to support student teams engaging in collaborative projects. Universities are increasingly asking their students to engage in project-based learning, develop new technologies, and become entrepreneurs. As we looked around our campus, we found that students often had a difficult time finding consistent space to engage in such endeavors. With that in mind, the University Libraries opened Project Design with the following goals:

  • Provide a consistent workspace for students engaging in collaborative work.
  • Offer the material, monetary, and human support those students need to succeed.
  • Help students develop the skills and mindsets necessary for successful collaboration. 
  • Build a community that supports students as they engage in the high-risk, high-reward work of creativity.
  • Create a safe environment to engage in creative risk taking and serious play.


Benefits of Membership

  1. Membership in a community of other students engaging in collaborative, creative work.
  2. Swipe access to the Project Design Studio whenever the library is open.
  3. Open access to the materials and technology in the space.
  4. Increased access to other resources offered by the Studios Network.
  5. Advising and support from the studio manager on topics including but not limited to:
    •  Collaboration skills
    • Project management
    • Conflict mediation
    • Finding resources (e.g. connecting with experts, pursuing grants and awards, or procuring supplies)
    • Professional communication and presentations

Please see our Membership Agreement for information about membership requirements and expected conduct in the studio. Advanced Tier Membership is also available for teams who have been members of the studio for at least one month and would like to apply for a stipend for their project.

Apply for Membership

To submit a proposal, please complete the application HERE.

The Project Design Studio manager will review proposals on a rolling basis, looking for the following criteria:

  1. Resource Needs – Can the studio meet the space and resource needs of the project team?
  2. Team Size – Will the studio be able to accommodate the size of the team based on the number of students already using the studio?
  3. Studio Contribution – Will the nature of the project allow for cross-pollination of diverse ideas and topics with other projects in the studio?

After review, the Project Design Studio Manager will contact you regarding your proposal status. Please contact us at if you have any questions.


CO2 Fuel Cell Project

We are currently experimenting with a patent pending invention for a "carbon negative" fuel cell. Carbon dioxide is withdrawn from the atmosphere into the fuel cell, where it reacts with carbonate ions inside the cell, resulting in an electrical charge to power the motor. The carbon dioxide is converted into bicarbonate form which will not re-enter the atmosphere. If effective, the use of this technology could potentially reverse human carbon emissions. We are doing preliminary testing for efficiency and effectiveness. 

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Rachel Smith, Environmental Science
  • Clay Mowry, General Engineering
  • John Stout, Environment Resource Management
  • Ryan Berotti, Environmental Conservation and Sociology
  • Kavan Shah, Mechanical Engineering
  • Megan McCarthy
  • Kaleb Chan


  • Rachel Smith,
  • John Stout,


ThermaSENSE is a startup company that specializes in Non-Invasive Thermal Interrogation and Testing. The team’s flagship technology is AccuTemp, a non-invasive sensing technology that can determine the INTERNAL temperature of almost any object– in real-time. Applications of AccuTemp range from healthcare to agriculture and the team is working hard to identify and develop solutions to commercial opportunities.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Ali Roghani, Mechanical Engineering (alum)
  • Mohsen Roghani, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Parker Lannom, Computer Science (alum)


University Innovation Fellows (UIF)

University Innovation Fellows is an international initiative created at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. UIFs empower students to envision their university’s future and serve as change agents with strategic campus partnerships. 

2020-2021 UIF Candidates

  • Pierina Galvez Diaz
  • Sai Gurrapu
  • Gracee Hutchinson
  • Blake Warner

2019-2020 Fellows:

  • Alisha Bajaj, Computational Modeling and Data Analytics
  • William Makowski, Interdisciplinary PhD
  • Isa Nunez Nova, Chemical Engineering
  • Michael Rauco, Biochemistry

2018-2019 Fellows:

  • Connor Mulligan; Industrial Design
  • Sydney Grace Miller; Interior Design
  • TJ Cosby; Finance
  • Shafe Ahmed; Finance

2017-2018 Fellows


  • Sara Sweeney Bear,
  • Leigh Lally,

TreeHAUS: Materials Research and Design

In April 2019, the TreeHAUS project won first place at the Solar Decathlon Design Competition. TreeHAUS is a net-positive, sustainable, regenerative, attached housing project inspired by the way trees collect and distribute resources in the forest to strengthen the surrounding environment.

A new team of students was formed during the 2020 spring semester to continue to research systems within TreeHAUS, including dowel laminated timber (DLT) panels and an indoor growing wall for air purification as well as greywater filtration for reuse. DLT research will consist of design and construction of modular panels for prefabricated and sustainable construction. The growing wall research will include plant selection, lighting studies and incorporation into the DLT wall panel system. Samples of these prototypes will also be included in the creation of a materials library to showcase standard and sustainable construction materials. This will give students hands-on learning experiences with building materials and allow them to see first-hand how materials come together during the construction process, including connections, layering and finishing details.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Allison Rogers, Architecture
  • Michael Darby, Architecture
  • Evan Fox, Public and Urban Affairs
  • Riley Hill, Industrial Design
  • Zach Gould, PhD Candidate in Environmental Design and Planning, Graduate Research Assistant in Building Construction
  • Deidre Regan, Faculty Advisor, School of Architecture + Design
  • Kay Edge, Faculty Advisor, School of Architecture + Design


Baxter International

Baxter creates products to treat hemophilia, kidney disease, immune disorders and other chronic and acute medical condition. Our team has been assigned to help the company target key wastes in the facility, and help optimize the preventive maintenance process.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Mohammed Ali, Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Kirn Kaur, Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Glenn Cheatham, Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Andrew Saba, Industrial and Systems Engineering


4U (United to Understand the Unsaid for the Unbreakable) 

Using a data-driven solution, the 4U team intends to predict and safely warn against panic attacks, reducing anticipatory anxiety. We are UNITED to UNDERSTAND the UNSAID for the UNBREAKABLE in order to defeat the stigma surrounding mental illness. It’s all 4U.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Dominic LoPinto, Mechanical Engineering
  • Michael Folta, Architecture
  • Ansh Mathur, Mechanical Engineering
  • Simran Singh, Aerospace Engineering
  • Corbin Harrison, Construction Engineering



Bikesburg is an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students who endorse cycling as a valid means of commuting to and from the Virginia Tech Campus. Created in response to an increased population of off-campus students, as well as an over-encumbered public transit system, Bikesburg seeks to improve the cycling culture in the Blacksburg area by:

  • Educating potential cycling commuters on safety and local policy differences between the VT campus and the town of Blacksburg.
  • Encouraging a sense of community by fostering relationships between VT students and relevant community partners (Office of Alternative Transportation, NRVBA)
  • Engineering products and amenities for cyclists to improve their quality of life while cycling in the Blacksburg area. 

Bikesburg is under Design for America, a national student-run organization that encourages interdisciplinary teams to tackle contemporary issues with a human-centered design perspective. The current prospects of the Bikesburg team are to design informative safety signs at bike racks and design cheap reflectors to attach to bike handles to hand out to students.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Justin Redman, Public and Urban Affairs
  • Erod Keaton Baybay, Physics
  • Taylor Bennett, Biological Systems Engineering
  • Josh Stutton, Electrical Engineering
  • Dalton Phillips, Mechanical Engineering



We are uTour. Three students who desire to leverage technology to empower students across the nation. Specifically, we use VR technology to create virtual environments of campuses and various resources within it, such as resident halls, dining locations, labs, studios, and much more. Our mission is to provide high transparency and knowledge of resources for incoming and current students of a certain university to help them succeed within their years at university.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Adarsh Ramesh, ISE
  • Gordon Quach, ISE / Entrepreneurship & New Venture Minor
  • Mohammed Ali, ISE / Entrepreneurship & New Venture Minor


Emerald Heights

Our research consists of building 4 aeroponic towers reaching 5 feet tall. We will be testing different growing mediums by growing several crops over the 2019 - 2020 academic year. We will be testing its effect on the plant, longevity of such medium, overall sustainability, labor saving, and more. Our control is rockwool, the industry leader, and we will be incorporating coconut fibers in one tower and clay gravel in another. We hope by the end of this research, we will be able to help the industry to find a better alternative than rockwool that's most cost efficient and overall better for the environment.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Jennifer Gerhards, Agribusiness/Horticulture 
  • Caitlyn Hand, Environmental Horticulture/Agribusiness
  • Ryan Kirk, Agribusiness


ISE Senior Design Team

Our team is working on a VR VT recruitment project as our Industrial Systems Engineering Senior Design Project. 

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Kate Malcolm, Industrial Systems Engineering
  • Grant Muir, Industrial Systems Engineering
  • Quynh-Lan Ngo, Industrial Systems Engineering


  • Kate Malcolm,


Our project is designed to transform our small team of Instructional Design and Technology graduate students into an internship team that works with small business stakeholders and subject matter experts who desire instructional design services. In collaboration with Virginia Tech's Apex Center for Entrepreneurs, the internship team will meet with small business owners and develop design strategies for their instructional, training, and user direction needs. Our team analyzes the stakeholders' needs and follows Instructional Design strategies to design, develop, and evaluate instructional and training solutions. 

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Ghadah Almutairy, Instructional Design
  • Ginny Clark, Instructional Design 
  • Rebecca Clark, Instructional Design
  • Dr. Alicia Johnson, Instructional Design
  • Mingyu Li, Instructional Design
  • Henry Yang, Instructional Design


  • Dr. Alicia Johnson,
  • Henry Yang,


We think electric pianos are too bulky.
We wanted a piano that felt authentic,
yet could also fit inside a backpack.
So we built one.
Here at Octave, we build modular, collapsible, stackable, electric pianos. Our piano disconnects at every octave, or 8 keys. Strong magnetic connections between the octaves carry your note
signals to a power module, that outputs the sound to your favorite amp or app. Because an octave is the foundational set of repeating notes on a piano, we’ve named ourselves after it.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Jamie Rotbert, Octave Founder and Lead Designer
  • Nick Gazillo, Industrial Design
  • Nick Render, Mechanical Engineer
  • Zach Treiber, Business Development
  • Andrei Rizescu, Business Development


  • Email:
  • Phone: (540) 254-0912


FreshCoat fearlessly pursues new paradigms in wearable design. Where others accept the status quo, FreshCoat re-examines the possibilities. For us, good enough just isn't good enough. We come across existing products and see existing potential. If people are comfortable with the fit and functionality of a wearable product, there's a good chance we think they need a FreshCoat.

We are pursuing new perspectives in the wearable device market by re-examining features used in traditional clothing. There are a few locations and features which we are confident could become aesthetic platforms for smart features, such as RFID, sensing, and controls. FreshCoat paints a perfect intersection of design and engineering.

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Dominic LoPinto, M.S. Mechanical Engineering
  • Ranger Turner, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Minor in Industrial Design


  • Dominic LoPinto,
  • Ranger Turner,

Old Mill Steel 

Old Mill Steel is a business venture that is focused on making products in the custom home decor and signs market. We are working on growing and managing volume and raising money for our long-term goals. Please, follow us on Instagram @Oldmillsteel. Also check out our website if you are interested in seeing what we do!

Team Members & Major/Department Affiliation:

  • Connor (Kai) Mulligan, Industrial Design at Virginia Tech
  • Kurt Steinke, Business and Political Science at UNC Chapel-Hill


  • Kai Mulligan:
  • Old Mill Steel:

Learning Opportunities and Experiences

Information about Intellectual Property for Students

  • VTip – Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, a VT affiliated corporation. From their website: “VTIP facilitates the licensing of technology to companies, encourages new faculty startup ventures, works with publishers and distributors of software, and supports the transfer of research and knowledge to other universities, research institutes and companies.”
  • VT News Article – about the 2015 change in the university’s policy on intellectual property
  • Policy 13000 – Virginia Tech’s official policy on intellectual property. You can visit this page for a brief summary, but we encourage you to review the policy carefully.

Funding Sources

While the studio has a small budget for software and supplies, groups will otherwise need to seek out any funding they need. The following are a few potential sources:

The University Libraries at Virginia Tech is pleased to invite undergraduate students in all disciplines and academic programs to apply through a competitive process for the Keesee Sustainability Grant. This grant provides funding for sustainability research and projects.

Potential topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Ecological sustainability
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Environmental conservation
  • Policy and sustainability

Interdisciplinary projects are welcome.

Applicants may request up to $2000. Funding may cover project expenses such as supplies and travel costs. Three finalists will be selected to give a brief (15-minute) presentation about their proposed project. Recipients will also become members of the Newman Library Project Design Studio.

Please contact Sara Sweeney Bear at with any questions about the grant.

Apply for the 2022 Keesee Grant here.

Application deadline: April 22nd, 2022


The Project Design Studio will be open to members by appointment. Members can book the space using the calendar in the studio's Canvas course. If you are interested in joining the studio, please apply via the "Apply for Studio Membership" button above. Please contact Sara Bear at if you have any questions.


The Studios Network offers many free workshops on various technologies and skills. See our list of upcoming workshops for information on how to register.


Email or stop by Newman Library, Room 2038

Need Help?

We offer consultations on topics like collaboration skills, project management, and more. Visit our consultations page to see what topics we cover and request a time to speak with someone.