MADISON — The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is accepting applications through Jan. 7 for its Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program, which provides funding to help public schools build or expand fab labs.

The grant program, in its sixth year, supports hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education by assisting public school districts with equipment purchases for instructional and educational purposes in fab labs.

Fab labs are high-tech workshops with the latest equipment, including computer-controlled manufacturing components such as 3D printers, laser engravers and computer numerical control routers.

WEDC’s investment in the program puts fab labs within reach for schools that might otherwise not have the financial means to install such facilities. 

WEDC will provide grants of up to $25,000 to public school districts, or up to $50,000 to consortiums of two or more districts, for the creation and/or expansion of fab labs. 

Applicants are asked to match 50% of the requested amount of grant funds. For example, if a district is requesting a grant of $25,000, the district must provide a match of at least $12,500.

“The Fab Labs program allows students to create, build and discover new technologies and skills,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “These labs are where the next generation of Wisconsin workers train and innovate.”

The funds may be used to purchase equipment used for instructional and educational purposes by elementary, middle, junior high, or high school students.

WEDC is allocating $500,000 in this fiscal year and anticipates awarding 20 grants. Recipients will be announced in the spring.

Since the program’s inception, WEDC has awarded over $3.4 million in grants to 95 districts. In April, grants totaling $635,090 were awarded to 28 districts. 

In addition to the grant program, WEDC also is supporting the state’s fab labs by working with the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Fox Valley Technical College to develop an online tool to increase collaboration and the sharing of resources among school districts with fab labs.

The web portal, which was developed by the UW-Stout Discovery Center with guidance from teachers statewide, allows teachers and others at fab lab schools to communicate with one another on topics such as curriculum development and implementation, equipment usage and troubleshooting, training and professional development.

More information on the program, including application details, can be found at wedc.org/fablabs. The deadline is Jan. 7.