The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has created a new program to help local school districts prepare students for high-tech jobs.

The Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Program will provide grants to districts to help them incorporate technologies such as 3D printing and computer-assisted design into their curricula, giving students hands-on experience and allowing them to put into practice concepts they have learned in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) courses.

“This program will equip students with skills that will set them apart in the job market and will help ensure that our state’s labor force includes knowledge required by today’s employers,” said WEDC CEO Mark Hogan.

Fab labs help schools expand their teaching methods to cater to students with diverse learning styles, creating opportunities for students to collaborate and apply practical skills. Participating schools throughout the country and around the world also share ideas with each other, thus giving students real-life experience in the global economy prior to graduating from high school.

Grants to help public school districts create or expand these labs will be available in amounts up to $25,000 per district. The funds may be used to purchase equipment used for instructional and educational purposes by elementary, middle, junior or high school students.

Fab Labs Grants will be awarded through a competitive process, with applications evaluated based on curriculum, partnerships, financial need and evidence of long-range planning. Competitively selected applications will subsequently be ranked based upon additional financial need criteria to determine final award recipients. Applications for the first grant year are due Jan. 22, 2016.

An application cycle will be opened on an annual basis until the lifetime program cap of $500,000 is fully disbursed. School districts are required to contribute matching funds such that the grant covers no more than 75 percent of the project cost in the first grant year. Awardees may apply for additional grant funding (subject to the same $25,000 per district maximum) in subsequent years, but at a reduced reimbursement rate (50 percent of the project cost in year two and 25 percent in year three).

To learn more about WEDC’s Fab Lab program and for grant application information, visit