History of Florence County Fab Lab
The 2015-2016 school year welcomed the opening of the Florence County Fab Lab. The Fab Lab was recognized as an accredited Fab Lab via the globally recognized Fab Foundation, and was one of the very first Fab Labs in Wisconsin.
The journey began with an introduction of Don Sidlowski (now known as the “Father of the Fab Lab” movement in Wisconsin and in other parts of the nation) to the School District of Florence County by Florence County Economic Development Director, Wendy Gehlhoff. Over the course of nearly a year, the school district leadership team, along with the board of education, discussed options as to how to proceed and invest in the start-up. First Technologies, Inc. made a significant financial contribution to offset initial equipment costs. A space was found within the school district, and in collaborating with staff and consolidating student programming in unique ways, Mrs. Kay McLain was assigned as the new Florence County Fab Lab Director. Additionally, UW-Stout was instrumental in assuring that the new lab met all the requirements of the nationally recognized Fab Foundation.
A key component to be recognized as a certified Fab Lab is to be open and offer the use of the Fab Lab to the public. The Fab Lab is utilized on a weekly basis via the support of different volunteers, and even has active members from beyond the borders of Florence County. Students of the Fab Lab have also had unique opportunities to produce real-world products for business and industries, applying their skills to real-world situations.
Via the support of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), and receiving three consecutive WEDC Fab Lab Grants, in addition to members of our industry advisory council, foundations and other contributions, the Florence County Fab Lab provides opportunities for students and school-community in 3D-printing, laser engraving, vinyl graphics, CNC, plasmacam in addition to several software platforms. The variety of hardware and software provides nearly unlimited opportunities to design and create various designs and products. The Fab Lab is providing students with the opportunity for real-world, relevant, learning experiences that they’ll apply to numerous career fields that they will fulfill.
Thank you to the Red Oak Foundation, TOSA Foundation, Systems Control, BOSS Snowplow, Verso, Pride Sports, Northern Eye Care Associates, Foundation for Rural Service and Kurt and Ramona Person, First Technolgies Inc., Town of Florence Fire Department and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office for your donations and contributions to grow and sustain our Fab Lab.