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Schools encouraged to apply for Fab Lab Grants

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is now accepting applications for the seventh year of its Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program, which provides funding to help public schools build or expand fab labs.

The grant program supports hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education, by assisting public school districts with equipment purchases for instructional and educational purposes in fab labs. Fab labs are high-tech workshops with the latest equipment, including computer-controlled manufacturing components such as 3D printers, laser engravers and computer numerical control routers.

The WEDC’s investment in the program puts fab labs within reach for schools that might otherwise not have the financial means to install such facilities. The WEDC will provide grants of up to $25,000 to public school districts, or up to $50,000 to consortiums of two or more districts, for the creation and/or expansion of fab labs.

For this year’s funding cycle, applicants are asked to match 50 percent of the amount of grant funds requested. The funds may be used to purchase equipment used for instructional and educational purposes by elementary, middle, junior high or high school students.

For the first time, Fab Labs Grants will be awarded on a non-competitive process first-come, first-served basis, with applicants evaluated on application completeness, evidence of readiness and long-range planning, curriculum, business and community partnerships, financial need and previous awards.

Applicants who have already received three grants, will be ineligible this year for additional funds. If a district previously received three Fab Labs Grants, they would still be eligible to apply for a one-time grant, to establish a fab lab for use by kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

In addition to the grant program, WEDC also is supporting the state’s fab labs by working with the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Fox Valley Technical College, to develop an online tool to increase collaboration and the sharing of resources among school districts with fab labs.

The web portal, which was developed by the UW-Stout Discovery Center, with guidance from teachers statewide, allows teachers and others at fab lab schools, to communicate with one another on topics such as curriculum development and implementation, equipment usage and troubleshooting, training and professional development.

More information on the program, including application details, can be found at The deadline to apply is Jan. 15.