RHS one of 22 schools to receive state funding
BY NAOMI KOWLES
For the Star Journal
Gov. Scott Walker presented Rhinelander High School with a check for just over $24,000 after a tour of the school’s “fab lab” Tuesday. Several students got the chance to personally showcase their fab lab projects to Walker, with the governor spending several minutes with each to ask questions and examine their creations.
Walker looked on as students used a rover to pick up objects off the floor, described their hand built arcades, showed off laser engraved products, and more.
“I think everybody who watched those kids in action today were kind of taken back—and so was I,” fab lab instructor Mike Wojtusik said.
Wisconsin leads the nation in fab labs, Walker said. The prevalence of these labs across the Northwoods starts with the people, he said, beginning with those who were passionate about them and branching out as others recognized their value.
Walker said they “opened doors to many other opportunities,” as they provided tools for students to explore options and discover what they were passionate about.
Tyler Fredericks, a student in fab lab classes, remarked, “I had no clue what Dream, Design and Create was, so I decided I would go with that class. About one week into it, I realized I absolutely love this class. It’s one of the most creative classes I’ve been a part of…[it] promotes a lot of independence, you’re able to work on your own.”
Fredericks showed off students’ ingenuity with an actual 3D printer part that had broken on one of their machines, and which the students printed themselves on a functioning 3D printer rather than purchasing a replacement.
Freshman Sofia Cook uses the lab for her Engineering Materials class. “Once you take that class, you can branch off into the other classes that you want,” she explained. She pointed to a Hodag drawing and a steer head she was able to create with the software, based off her own drawings rather than pre-designed silhouettes.
Don Sidlowski, an economic development strategist who was instrumental early on in helping get fab labs started, described some of the challenges he faced working with legislators and school districts to get on board with the project.
“Five years ago, there was literally no K-12 in the state that was doing this,” he noted. After those first few were started, “it started going viral in the state.” Now, he says, 230 of 424 K-12 public school districts have adopted resolutions for fab labs.
He used Cook as an example of how the fab lab has impacted student’s lives, saying she had been discouraged about the potential of art careers but now had a number of opportunities to use her artistic talents in conjunction with modern technology.
Rhinelander was one of 22 schools across the state to receive funding for fab labs this week.