Kayla Breese/ River News
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch inspects some of the equipment in the Rhinelander High School Fab Lab Tuesday afternoon. Kleefish was at the school to announce Rhinelander has received a $25,000 WEDC grant to add equipment to its Fab Lab.
Kayla Breese/ River News
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announces a $25,000 grant from WEDC to the School District of Rhinelander for the purchase of Fab Lab equipment Tuesday at Rhinelander High School.
4/27/2017 7:29:00 AM School district receives $25,000 grant for Fab Lab equipment
By River News Staff
The School District of Rhinelander received a $25,000 grant Tuesday from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to purchase additional equipment and expand its fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab).
A 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, the governor's office explained in a press release announcing the grant.
Rhinelander's Fab Lab opened this fall and is still being stocked with equipment.
District officials say the new Fab Lab is already changing the way students learn and engage with the design process for problem solving and "receiving this second grant will allow us to complete our plans and be able to offer a full lab of equipment to all students in the district."
The grant announcement was timely as Gov. Scott Walker declared Tuesday "Fab Lab Day" in Wisconsin. He also sent his congratulations to Rhinelander via a press release.
"On behalf of the state of Wisconsin, I congratulate the School District of Rhinelander for being one of 21 recipients statewide of our fab lab grants, which are helping students develop the skills they will need for the jobs of tomorrow," Walker said. "Rhinelander has developed an outstanding plan for its fab lab program that is going to result in more innovation in the classrooms and the community, and WEDC is proud to support the district's efforts."
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch represented the governor at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Rhinelander High School celebrating Fab Lab Day.
Kleefisch said the Walker administration firmly believes Fab Labs are key to educating the next generation of Wisconsin workers.
"With the combination of academic and career planning, we think this Fabrication Laboraroty will do extraordinary things to get young peoople invested in local employers and in particular our manufacturing and engineering economy," she said.
WEDC awarded grants to 21 school districts statewide Tuesday, including the Florence and Lakeland school districts in the Northwoods.
The 21 school districts are receiving a total of $494,809 in fab lab 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 69 applications representing over $1.58 million in funding requests, according to the press release. Applications 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 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Wisconsin Technical College System, and UW-Stout, as well as three WEDC team members.
"Wisconsin's fab labs are already making a difference around the state by helping students develop skills that will benefit them regardless of what career path they choose after high school," WEDC Secretary Mark R. Hogan said in the press release. "Fab labs will undoubtedly benefit individual students, school districts, and Wisconsin's economy as a whole."
In addition to the funding, WEDC has developed a fab lab resource page for its website that provides districts with information and a video 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 UW-Stout and Gateway Technical College. UW-Stout also received a grant from WEDC for the development of an online tool to increase collaboration and the sharing of resources among Wisconsin fab labs.
This is the second round of funding for the Fab Lab Grants and brings the total number of districts receiving grants to 34. Walker's 2015-17 state budget included $500,000 to fund the initial round of grants. In response to an overwhelming number of applications in the first year, WEDC provided another $500,000 for the program, and in May 2016, grants of up to $25,000 were awarded to 25 school districts.
In addition, Walker's 2017-19 budget proposal calls for another $1 million in fab lab funding over the next two years.
This year, WEDC is requiring award participants to make the fab labs accessible to the public, and many schools will offer community members, businesses, and entrepreneurs the opportunity to use the labs after school. This facet of the program is expected to drive innovation and foster economic development throughout the community, WEDC officials say.
For more information, visit www.inwisconsin.com/fablabs.
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