Business Leaders Enthusiastic With New School Partnership
A business-school collaboration known as a Fab Lab drew an enthusiastic response from industry members attending an informational session Wednesday.
The Antigo school district hosted the meeting for representatives of local industries at Northcentral Technical College, another step in a fast-track process to bring the high-tech program into the school district.
It’s all about access to technology and more importantly, curriculum, Don Sidlowski, founder of Northwoods Broadband & Economic Development Coalition, said.
The meeting drew a mix of educators and local industrial representatives, key partners in what would become the seventh lab in northern Wisconsin.
Why not here? Sidlowski, whose enthusiasm for the project was evident, said. This thing is going to go viral.
Sidlowski is in the middle of a three-year initiative to install one of the units in each of Wisconsin’s eight Grow North counties—Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida and Vilas.
Using the increasingly availability of high-speed Internet, the labs incorporate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) in a curriculum that melds aspects of engineering and design through 3D printing, laser engravers and other computerized numerical control equipment.
A key component is that everything must be open source and available to the public.
The school district is already applying for a grant for initial funding for the program, with long term finances likely through a public-private partnership.
Sidlowski stressed something that local manufacturers already know—that there is a skills gap between employers and potential workforce. Most of the jobs of the 21st century will be centered in areas that require technical, not four-year degrees.
The Fab Lab is one way to address that deficit, he said, and help students learn that manufacturing and industrial occupations can be rewarding and lucrative.
He referenced a student at Three Lakes, home of the first Fab Lab, who had aspirations to be an artist or graphic designer. After working in the lab, she discovered an aptitude for engineering design, and plans to move in that direction after graduation.
We can create the kind of worker who we want, Sidlowski said.
The planner said that industry involvement is key, both in design and implementation of the lab.
We can’t do it without industry involvement, he said. We need your ideas and expertise.
Source: Antigo Daily Journal