School District of New Berlin, Fab Labs Grant recipient.

WEDC is now accepting applications for the Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program, which provides funding to help public schools build or expand fab labs that help students master skills that are in high demand in the job market.

The program is designed to support hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education by assisting public school districts with equipment purchases used for instructional and educational purposes in fab labs in Wisconsin schools.

In spite of the pandemic and uncertainty around instructional models this fall, these grants are long-term investments in equipping Wisconsin students with crucial skills for the workforce. In fact, some of the school-based fab labs have helped produce items needed for the state’s COVID-19 response, such as face shields and masks.

Because the fab labs are required to be accessible to the community, they contribute more broadly to economic development by sparking innovation among Wisconsin entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses.

The program, now in its fifth year, has invested more than $2.8 million through 119 grants to create or improve Wisconsin school districts’ fab labs.

“Fab labs benefit not only 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,” says WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes.

The incentives in this program are grants of up to $25,000 for individual school districts or up to $50,000 for consortia, with a total of $500,000 available in the program this year. The Fab Labs Grant Program has an annual competition for funding. Applicants may only be awarded one grant per cycle.

All applicants must match 50% of the grant amount of funding provided by WEDC. During FY21, WEDC is continuing a moratorium on applicants who have already received three Fab Labs Grants. (Milwaukee Public Schools are exempt from the moratorium, as are applicants seeking a one-time grant to establish a fab lab for use by K-8 students.)

Fab Labs Grants will be awarded through a competitive process, with applicants evaluated based on readiness and long-range planning, curriculum, business and community partnerships, financial need and previous awards.

Applications are due Jan. 8. Learn more and find application details.