State expanding Fab Labs program

Additional $500,000 allocated for grants

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The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is allocating an additional $500,000 to the state’s Fab Labs program, which helps school districts expand workshops with computer-controlled manufacturing equipment.

Manufacturing

The 2015-17 state budget included $500,000 in initial funding for the Fabrication Laboratories Grant Program. WEDC added another $100,000 in May. A total of 25 school districts were awarded up to $25,000 in grants.

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WEDC is starting a new round of grants with an additional $500,000 and plans to begin seeking applications on Oct. 10. A total of 20 grants will likely be awarded in this round.

The money for the additional funding came from the overall WEDC budget, spokesman Mark Maley said.

The grants are intended to help public school districts with equipment purchases used for instructional purpose in workshops. Potential equipment purchases include 3D printers, laser engravers and computer numerical control routers.

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

WEDC also requires districts receiving funding to make the labs accessible to the public. Officials say some districts are offering training and workshops to community members after school.

Southeastern Wisconsin recipients in the first round of grants included Elkhorn Area School District, Delavan-Darien School District, East Troy Community School District, Milwaukee Public Schools, School District of Cudahy and School District of South Milwaukee.

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