This isn’t the kind of shop class where you end up with a bookcase that Mom treasures. In these classes, students use high-tech equipment to make anything from robots to prototypes of the next big idea.
And more students than ever are going to have those opportunities with help from WEDC’s Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program.
Governor Tony Evers and WEDC announced May 5 that 28 school districts throughout the state have been awarded a total of more than $635,000 in grants to establish or expand local fab lab facilities.
“The fab labs program engages students in science, math and engineering, allowing them to create and invent all sorts of things, from robots to 3D models,” Governor Evers said. “The skills learned in Wisconsin’s fab labs can help prepare our kids for their future, including high-paying jobs in technology and manufacturing, which are critically important for our state’s future and our economy.”
The fab lab is a high-technology workshop equipped with computer-controlled manufacturing components such as 3D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers and plasma cutters. Through its Fab Labs Grant Program, WEDC is supporting the purchase of fab lab equipment for instructional and educational purposes by elementary, middle school, junior high or high school students.
“WEDC has invested over $3.4 million over the past six years to provide 95 school districts across the state with the equipment necessary to help students learn high-demand skills, including technology, manufacturing and engineering,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “Fab labs not only benefit the students themselves with important technology and career skills, but they also benefit Wisconsin employers, who will be able to find workers with the right skills to allow their companies to grow and thrive.”
The following school districts were awarded Fab Labs Grants:
- Cuba City School District, $21,938
- Montello School District, $25,000
- School District of Poynette, $9,222
- Columbus School District, $25,000
- Dodgeland School District, $25,000
- Southern Door County School District, $25,000
- Gresham School District, $19,500
- Washington Island School District, $25,000
- School District of Belleville, $13,000
- School District of Athens, $25,000
- School District of Nekoosa, $25,000
- Wauwatosa School District, $25,000
- Merton Community School District, $25,000
- Cornell School District, $25,000
- Elk Mound School District, $25,000
- Milwaukee Public Schools, $25,000
- Fontana Joint 8 School District, $25,000
- Sturgeon Bay School District, $25,000
- Prescott School District, $24,243
- River Falls School District, $25,000
- La Farge School District, $25,000
- School District of Alma Center-Humbird Merrillan, $24,816
- School District of Florence, $5,126
- School District of Wabeno, $25,000
- Kiel Area School District, $17,244
- Wonewoc-Union Center School District, $25,000
- School District of Omro, $25,000
- School District of Wisconsin Rapids, $25,000
The 28 public school districts are receiving a total of $635,089 in Fab Labs Grants from WEDC. Individual school districts were eligible for up to $25,000, and consortiums of two or more districts were eligible for up to $50,000. The program requires matching funds from each district.
WEDC received 28 applications, which were evaluated based on readiness and long-range planning, curriculum, business and community partnerships, financial need and previous awards. The review committee consisted of experts from the University of Wisconsin-Stout as well as three WEDC team members.
In addition to the grants, WEDC has developed a fab lab resource webpage that provides districts with information on how to set up and equip a fab lab, how to implement best practices to ensure a successful fab lab and more. Content for the page was provided by the UW-Stout and Fox Valley Technical College.
For more information on the state’s fab labs, including resources for teachers, visit wedc.org/fablabs or follow #WIFabLab on Twitter.