Northland Pines School District now offers a Fab Lab for our students and community. A Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering personal digital fabrication. It is generally equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim being to make “almost anything”. This includes products generally perceived as limited to mass production.
This entire project was made possible by a group of staff members who applied for a Fab Lab grant last year; we received notice in the Spring of 2016 that we had been awarded the grant. The Vilas County Economic Development Corporation (VCEDC) was instrumental in helping us secure the grant as they provided the required matching funds so that Northland Pines could meet the grant criteria. Northland Pines also received a donation from the Eagle River Chain of Lakes Association (ERCLA). The Fab Lab features high quality equipment that is currently in use in the industry. Our goal is to help students gain the knowledge and skills to utilize the equipment and, if they choose a career path in the trades field, make it possible for them to graduate from high school with the knowledge and ability to open their own business using the skills they have learned in high school.
Students are already making plaques for sports teams and for the high school “Students of the Month” awards. They are operating the Fab Lab similar to an actual business by taking orders for the plaques, designing a proof, obtaining approval, creating the plaques and invoicing the customer upon completion of the job. The Fab Lab offers a unique hands-on learning opportunity for students district wide. Recently, our Eagle River Elementary School 5th graders came over to make photo ornaments as gifts for their families. It is important to note that most of the equipment in the Fab Lab can be easily transported to other schools in the district so that all students have the opportunity to learn how to use the Fab Lab equipment.