Twenty-two Wisconsin school districts are receiving grants to create or improve fabrication laboratories, or fab labs, within their districts.

The Fab Labs Grant Program is designed to support hands-on learning in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) by assisting public school districts with equipment purchases used for instructional and educational purposes.

The grant program is in its third year, and has invested a total of $1.6 million in Wisconsin school districts’ fab labs thus far, including the newly announced grants. School districts must provide matching funds for the amount of grant funds they receive.

Lakeland Union High School received its first Fab Labs Grant last year. It used the $50,000 grant and the matching funds provided by the district to purchase 3D printers and a wood engraver for use in engineering classes. The current year’s $35,000 grant will be used along with district matching funds to purchase a plasma cutter.

“Fab labs help students become better educated, better prepared for the future, and better developed entrepreneurs,” says James Bouché, Lakeland Union High School’s principal and district administrator. “We have been fully certified since 2009 as a Project Lead the Way program to prepare students to go into the world of engineering, and the Fab Labs Grant Program has helped us further develop our capabilities in that area.”

In each district that receives a grant, the fab lab is required to be open for community use outside of school hours. “These tools are used daily, not only in engineering classes but by students during their open hours, as well as by community members,” says Bouché. “Our school community, and the community as a whole, are grateful for this support that helps to keep us at the cutting edge of technology and career skills.”

A total of just over $500,000 is being awarded in grants this year. Of the 22 schools receiving awards this year, nine are receiving Fab Labs Grants for the first time, and 13 have received a grant in one or both prior years of the grant program. The 22 schools were chosen from 63 applicants.

“Fab labs are a key component of our state’s strategy to equip the next generation with STEAM skills that are in high demand in today’s job market,” says Vincent Rice, vice president of sector strategy development with WEDC, which oversees the grant program. “These skills benefit not only the students themselves, when they are well prepared for high-paying jobs—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.”

School districts receiving a Fab Labs Grant for the first time this year include:

  • Ashwaubenon School District
  • Beaver Dam Unified School District
  • Cornell School District
  • School District of Elmbrook
  • Mauston School District
  • Plymouth School District
  • Solon Springs School
  • Somerset School District
  • Waupun Area School District

School districts receiving a Fab Labs Grant for the second time this year include:

  • Unified School District of Antigo
  • School District of Black River Falls
  • Chequamegon School District
  • Lakeland Union High School
  • Northwood School District
  • School District of Phillips

The school districts that have received Fab Labs Grants for all three years of the program are:

  • Altoona School District
  • East Troy Community School District
  • School District of Florence County
  • Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Northland Pines School District
  • School District of Rhinelander
  • Waunakee Community School District