WEDC grant program will outfit schools with ‘Fab Labs’

Last updated on July 7th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

A new grant program will give public school districts an edge in preparing students for the future workforce as it equips schools with technologies such as 3D printers and computer-assisted design software.3D printing_261887003_Shutterstock.jpg

The Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Program, led by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, will award up to $25,000 to individual school districts wanting to create or expand fab labs. The program aims to give elementary school, middle school and high school students hands-on learning experiences that relate directly to concepts they have explored in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) classes.

“This program will equip students with skills that will set them apart in the job market and will help ensure that our state’s labor force includes knowledge required by today’s employers,” WEDC chief executive officer Mark Hogan said in a press release.

Schools across the country that host fab labs give students with different learning styles innovative ways to grasp concepts and collaborate on lessons with their peers.

The WEDC, which has designated $500,000 for the Fab Labs program, will award funds through a competitive application process. The agency will review applications with factors such as curriculum, partnerships, financial need and planning top of mind. Selected applications will then be prioritized according to additional financial need evaluation, and from there final winners will be named.

The application cycle will run on an annual basis until grant dollars are exhausted. School districts will need to kick in matching funds so that grant contributions fund no more than 75 percent of the district’s technology project during the first grant year. Grant winners will be able to apply for additional grant funding during future grant cycles but will only be eligible for grants at a reduce reimbursement rate – 50 percent of a project cost in year two and 25 percent in year three.

Applications for the inaugural cycle are due on Jan. 22.

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