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home : news : news August 23, 2017

8/11/2017 7:27:00 AM
LdF school students may tour fab labs
District one of the few in this part of the state with a tech ed program

Brian Jopek

A tour of another school's "fab lab" may very well take place for students of the Lac du Flambeau school district at some point after the 2017-18 school year gets underway in a few weeks.

A "fab lab" is a high-technology workshop equipped with computer-controlled manufacturing components such as 3D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers, and plasma cutters.

The subject was brought up at the Aug. 2 meeting of the LdF School Board by school board member Melissa Doud, also a tribal representative of the board of directors for Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The Three Lakes School District is among area districts which have had success in developing its fab labs, something Doud alluded to.

"I know there's been some success with kids over in the Three Lakes area," she said. "I don't if we've been able to have any of our kids go and tour one of those (fab labs). That was kind of where I wanted to start with it and in the future, if possible, maybe we could have one here near the youth center. Just kind of thinking long term."

Doud said she knows the fab lab programs have been a "huge success with a lot of the younger kids."

"It really works with the technology base and how they learn," she said. "I just thought it would be a good opportunity for our kids to jump on that because it's been talked about in various communities and different schools."

Doud said Jim Bouché, the principal/administrator for Lakeland Union High School, has talked about it and the possibilities at that level.

"So, I just wanted to introduce that," she said. "That maybe we start there where maybe our kids could go and take tours of that. There was some interest from parents as well ... kind of go from there."

District administrator Larry Ouimette also mentioned Three Lakes, saying the school district was among the first in northern Wisconsin to have a fab lab.

"They're getting grants, I think, to get some of the equipment in," he said. "Fortunately for us, our board has purchased a lot of the equipment that these schools are getting through these fab lab grants. But I think it would behoove us to go to other schools, see how they're using them and look at what we have."

Ouimette said the Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk (MHLT) School District and LUHS joined together for a fab lab.

In the April 25 edition of The Lakeland Times, it was reported MHLT, LUHS and the North Lakeland School District were approved for a fab lab grant to assist each district in acquiring manufacturing and engineering equipment.

The grant will allot $100,000 between the three districts and requires a match of funds on the part of the districts.

The districts will be able to purchase equipment such as 3D printers, vinyl printers and cutters, laser engravers, dye sublimation printers and presses, CNC routers and CNC plasma cutters.

"A lot of the schools that only go up through eighth grade ... a lot of the middle schools, no longer have a tech ed program," Ouimette said. "We have a tech ed program and have some of the equipment. Schools like MHLT and Arbor Vitae-Woodruff and some of the smaller schools around the area really eliminated a lot of those programs a few years back as budgets were tight."

He said the LdF district was fortunate to have what it does.

"We can take those ideas and bring them together," Ouimette said.

LdF principal Ron Grams also mentioned the equipment the school board has purchased for the tech ed program, such as 3D printers.

"This is the first year we'll have them up and fully functioning," he said. "We're the only grade school around I know has such a well-versed ability to reach the kids and we go down to the elementary grade levels, which is phenomenal. People hear about that and their mouths drop. We are providing that education for our elementary kids."

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.

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