Nathan Hoffman

Nathan Hoffman
ET Ourn

Nathan Hoffman `24 might be graduating in the spring like many others, but he possesses a memory that is shared by few in his year. He remembers what it was like to walk through Grinnell’s campus before the COVID-19 pandemic shut Grinnell College down. He took a gap year and returned to his family home in Cedar Falls, roughly an hour and a half drive away, visiting the school occasionally when it reopened in the spring of 2021.

Hoffman said he had some early connections with Grinnell Duels and Games (DAG), a live action role-playing club, and later with his housemates in GAME Hous. His main community, though, is the Stew Makerspace, a workshop run by the College’s Wilson Center and the Grinnell Area Arts Council. When he returned in the fall of 2021, Hoffman firmly established himself as a recognizable face in the Makerspace. Hoffman had worked there before the pan- demic, and once he returned, he seemed to never leave.

“If I’m not [at the Makerspace], and I’m not doing something that’s academic, I’m probably thinking about the place,” he said.

I asked Hoffman what part of campus embodies his time at Grinnell best. “The first place that comes to mind for me is the Makerspace,” he wrote in an email. Hoffman showed his love for the shop when he gave S&B photographer Evan Hein and me a tour. He first showed us the ceramics studio, which he seemed to know everything about, despite advertising it as the section that he knows the least about. After telling us about the two kilns, named Thelma and

Louise, he took us into the computer numerical control (CNC) router room. “The current configuration of the CNC room was something that I redesigned,” Hoffman said. When he’s not working on projects, Hoffman is organizing the Makerspace. “Some of my favorite things that I’ve done in the Makerspace have been improving the space,” he said.

As he stood in the CNC room that he had improved, Hoffman told us about the machines in front of him. On one side of the room is a router, which will cut whatever the user designs. This machine, however, is not Hoffman’s biggest pride. There is a bigger router, he said, that he calls his “baby.” It wasn’t upstairs when we toured because it is too big, so we were unable to see it, but his parent-like love for the machine was clear nonetheless.

Evan Hein

On the other side of the room is a laser engraver. On the wall next to it is a list of instructions, which actually has more dos than don’ts. One such instruction tells the prospective user that they can indeed en- grave full bottles of wine and liquor. Hoffman told us that the machine can cut stone, glass, leather, acrylic and of course wood.

After Hein told both of us about a project he himself had worked on in the Makerspace, Hoffman took us both into the wood shop. “This is probably the space that I spend the most time in,” he said. To wrap up our tour, Hoffman showed us the new dust collection system — another project of his. Hoffman also told us about a lamp he had made, where the bulb was housed in a self-made miniature TARDIS, the iconic phone booth from “Doctor Who,” which airport security were slightly baffled by.

As Hoffman said, his time in Grinnell is mostly split into two categories — academics and the Makerspace. The former, however, is very important to him. Hoffman is a political science major with a concentration in policy studies. He told us about his infatuation with professor Peter Hanson’s course POL 195: Political Polling: Analyzing the Grinnell College National Poll. “I actually haven’t had a final project for a class go down as easy as that just because it was so enjoyable. I got done like, ‘I’m disappointed that we finished.’”

Still, the Makerspace, which he called “a home away from my dorm room or GAME House,” is his main focus. “I probably wouldn’t like to know how many hours I’ve actually spent in the Makerspace because it’s probably way too many,” he said.

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