Wonewoc-Center Receives Fab Lab Grant for CNC Plasma Machine

Last spring, the Wonewoc-Center School District passed a referendum enabling the district to undergo a substantial remodeling of the existing school buildings. The project was initially proposed as a way to help bring the school up-to-date, both in terms of basic code compliance and in terms of the technology and equipment necessary to provide a good education for students in the 21st century.

Construction began back in April, and the Wonewoc-Center School Board voted to move the school year’s end date up to Friday, May 21, in order for the construction to continue through the summer and finish the more intrusive aspects of the project prior to when students and staff return for the 2021-2022 school year.

In the interest of furthering their commitment to providing their students with the tools necessary to receive the best possible education, Wonewoc-Center adminstrators put in a bid for one of the Fab Lab grants. District officials have applied for one of the grants multiple times in the past with no success, and decided to continue trying for the grant this year.

The Fab Lab Grant exists to distribute funds to school districts across Wisconsin for the specific use of either establishing or expanding their local fabrication laboratory facilities—or “fab lab” facilities. Fab labs are workshops that require high levels of technology, utilizing components such as 3-D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers, and plasma cutters.

For the past six years, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has distributed a total of over $3.4 million across 95 school districts in Wisconsin, enabling these districts to acquire the equipment necessary to educate students in increasingly high-demand skills. This year, Wonewoc-Center was one of 28 school districts to be awarded a fab lab grant, receiving $25,000 in funding.

The funds will enable the Wonewoc-Center School District to purchase a CNC plasma-cutting machine. A CNC plasma-cutting machine is a computer-controlled device that enables the user to create intricate, complex patterns on the surface of a given material. These machines are becoming increasingly common in businesses, as the precise cutting and carving abilities of the machine enable prototypes to be more easily and more accurately developed. CNC plasma-cutting machines can be used for artwork, signage, ornaments, fabrication, and more, able to cut straight steel tubes, drill holes, and gouge tubes as needed.

Tech Ed instructors Tom Schraufnagel and Jeff Wafle had located a potential candidate for the purchase, and over a few negotiations were able to receive a lower price on the machine. The model in question typically goes for around $27,000, but the lowered price will enable the school to purchase two 3-D printers as well.

A CNC plasma-cutting machine was on the wish list for the Tech Ed department, though the model Schraufnagel and Wafle located is actually better than the model they had initially been looking for. The new machines have been purchased and are expected to arrive sometime in July, where they will be stored in the old Rayovac building until they can be relocated to the newly remodeled Tech Ed wing.

District officials have indicated that they are considering organizing fundraising efforts at a later date to fund the purchase of a second CNC plasma-cutting machine. A second machine would enable both the metals and woods shop classes to have full access to such a machine. Details have not been fully discussed at this time.

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