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Ashwaubenon awarded $25,000 Fab Lab grant

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – The third time was the charm for the Ashwaubenon School District in its effort to obtain a Fab Lab grant through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

After two unsuccessful grant applications two years in a row, this year Ashwaubenon is among the 22 school districts throughout state awarded a grant out of 63 applications.

Of the more than $500,000 in grants awarded through the program this year, Ashwaubenon received a $25,000 grant.

The district had to match the grant for a total of $50,000 toward equipping its fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) facilities.

Ashwaubenon Superintendent Brian Hanes said receiving the grant was “no easy job” with a “lot of tedious paperwork” involved in applying.

Hanes said the district improved its chances of receiving a grant by forming partnerships in the business community, providing public access to school facilities on special tech ed nights at the high school and having an advisory board to be aware the area’s technical education needs.

The grant was announced Tuesday, May 1, when Gov. Scott Walker proclaimed “Fab Lab Day” throughout Wisconsin and also appeared at AHS’s Beaux Mettler Innovation Center for an announcement event attended by students and staff.

“Fab Labs are the latest example of the many investments we have made in education and workforce development to ensure that Wisconsin students have the skills and training they need for jobs in the 21st century,” Walker said. “Wisconsin’s Fab Labs provide students with hands-on experience in areas such as design, engineering and complex problem-solving – all key skills that will benefit those students, regardless of the career paths they choose after high school.”

Ashwaubenon tech ed teacher Tom Barnhart said the grant money makes it possible for the district to obtain what’s trending in technology without expecting local taxpayers to pay the cost.

Barnhart said a Fab Lab incorporates computerized equipment to be able to use an automated system that is programmed, rather than having to operate equipment manually.

He said a computer numerical control (CNC) laser engraver is being obtained with the grant money for making precision cuts as well as engraving.

In addition, Barnhart said the grant will make it possible to purchase additional 3D printers, which have come down in price, thereby making 3D printing more accessible to students.

A class now only has one of those printers on hand.

“3D printing takes a lot of time,” he said.

Barnhart said the matching funds for the grant were split between donations and the district’s financial support.
He noted some of the items able to be obtained for the Fab Lab with the matching funds include a CNC plasma cutter, an industrial-strength air compressor, a CNC mill and a CNC lathe.

Barnhart said the district has until Dec. 30 to have everything completed with the Fab Lab grant.

He said he hopes the district will obtain another grant for next year.

Barnhart said the school district in recent years has “reinvented” the way it teaches because of the area’s technical education needs, which are “very heavy in manufacturing.”

He also noted AHS is now offering some tech ed classes that count for credit at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College for students furthering their technical education after high school.

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