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Posted May 7, 2018
Plymouth High School students soon will gain experience with a high-tech router, thanks to a $25,000 Fab Lab grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
“Fab Labs offer hands-on learning that’s essential to developing the skills workers need,” state Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler said while visiting PHS to announce the award.
The PHS award was one of 22 Fab Lab grants totaling more than $500,000 announced on May 1 – “Fab Lab Day” – by state officials throughout Wisconsin. WEDC received 63 applications, so the award “speaks highly of the work being done here,” Secretary Chandler said.
Those in attendance for the announcement included district and school officials, PHS technology education teachers and students, city officials, Lakeshore Technical College leaders, and numerous business partners.
PHS Principal Jennifer Rauscher acknowledged those present. “We are grateful for your ongoing support as we strive to help students become innovative designers and skilled technicians who will positively impact our community for years to come,” she said.
Plymouth Superintendent Carrie Dassow noted that many of those same people were involved in the creation of the school’s Fab Lab, known formally as the LTC-Plymouth Science & Technology Center.
The district’s strategic plan calls for all students to be prepared to enter post-high school education in order to find personal success in a global society, Dr. Dassow said. “Because of all of you here today and the state of Wisconsin’s innovative spirit to develop the Fab Lab grants, we will continue to make this goal a reality,” she said.
Plymouth has been a leader in bringing technology to students, said State Sen. Devin LeMahieu, who said he also spoke for Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, a PHS grad. “It’s exciting to see this new development for Plymouth.”
The grant will help purchase a Computer Numerical Control router, which students will program to cut wood very precisely. It is expected to be installed in the fall and to be operational by the start of the second semester.
The router will put the PHS woods/construction curriculum on par with other PHS technology education and engineering programs in the Science & Technology Center, which already features two CNC mills, a CNC plasma cutter, a CNC lathe, two CNC simulators, a 3-D printer, a welding training facility, engineering/CAD Labs, and an industry-standard automotive lab.
The industry-standard machine will benefit primarily in the woods/construction curriculum, but also will factor into other PHS classes, community projects, and continuing education classes for adults, said PHS tech ed teacher Jake Sherman.
The router is a single piece of equipment but will be part of an overall experience that develops well-rounded students, including engineering students who are excited about shop projects, and vocational students who are able to see the design process that precedes the hands-on work, Mr. Sherman said.
In recent years, the PHS tech ed program has seen increased enrollment, increased enthusiasm for manufacturing and skilled trades, and increased participation in Youth Apprenticeships and co-ops, Mr. Sherman said.
“We’re thankful for this opportunity,” he told those gathered. “We’re very excited about this grant, and we’re very excited to take the next step.”
The state defines a fab lab as a high-technology workshop equipped with computer-controlled manufacturing components such as 3D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers, and plasma cutters.
WEDC received 63 grant applications, which were evaluated based on readiness and long-range planning, curriculum, business and community partnerships, financial need, and previous awards. Individual school districts were eligible for up to $25,000.
Because of the important role that fab labs play in student training and workforce development, Governor Walker’s 2017-19 budget directed WEDC to allocate a total of $1 million in fab lab funding this year and next.
“Fab labs play a vital role in ensuring that today’s students have the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century by providing hands-on experience in areas such as design, engineering, and complex problem-solving,” said Governor Walker. “This is the latest example of the significant investments we’ve made in education and workforce development over the last six years to ensure that current and future workers have the skills that are in high demand in the job market.”
PHS tech ed teacher Ken Odekirk, Plymouth Superintendent Carrie Dassow, State Sen. Devin LeMahieu, Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler, PHS tech ed teacher Jake Sherman and Beau Biller, PHS Principal Jennifer Rauscher, and PHS tech ed teacher Greg Gritt.