Innovating Wisconsin: FabLab Stoughton and The Innovation Center Stoughton
Make48 is returning to Madison, WI in August, with a brand new host location on board! The FabLab Stoughton will host the 48-hour event from August 12-14th. The FabLab is located in Stoughton High School, a public high school of about 1000 students in Stoughton, Wisconsin.
Stoughton High School was the first high school in Wisconsin and the second in the nation to have a FabLab. Built and assembled during 2012-13, the lab opened to students in the fall of 2013. The digital makerspace is a motivational environment with an abundance of equipment to fabricate almost anything. Around 160 high school students per semester use the space to play, create, learn, mentor, and invent. The FabLab is used in high school classes, middle level summer school, and also open to the community for evening and weekend (free) workshops and student-led tours.
An array of fabrication tools can be found in the lab, from 3D printers to Laser Cutter/engravers, Vinyl Cutter, CNC Machines (circuit board maker, ShopBot CNC router, and a 4 Axis CNC milling machine) along with an electronics lab (soldering, board making, PLC controllers, and a well stocked electronic components area).
Mike Connor is one of the founders and is an advisor at FabLab Stoughton, as well as the Innovation Center Stoughton. “Our FabLab has become a showcase and an inspiration for many other FabLabs in and around the state of Wisconsin. Our motto - "we have a FabLab and we want to help you build a better one" was given to us from FabLab Mahtomedi in Minnesota. They were the first MIT registered FabLab in a public high school in the USA.”
FabLab Stoughton will celebrate its 10th year in operation in September of 2022. “Being part of the Maker Movement has been exciting and fulfilling to all of us,” Mike replied. Preparing students for unlimited opportunities and exposing STEM to students is one of the big aspects of creating the FabLab. The impacts from having an innovation space on campus has been overwhelmingly positive. In this YouTube video, alumni students share how being exposed to hands-on learning and their work in the FabLab helped them develop the necessary skills and interests to get to where they are now.
Mike is part of a team at the school district that launched and helped launch other creative spaces including; Wanakee, Mt Horeb, East Troy, Three Lakes and Turtle Lake FabLabs. We spoke to Mike further about Innovation Center Stoughton Inc., which will hopefully open later this year and what he’s looking forward to when Make48 lands in Stoughton.
How does everyone feel about M48 coming in for your first event and what are you looking forward to?
The City of Stoughton and its residents are excited to host the Make48 event. We are looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that the event will bring to our FabLab, Innovation Center, and our community.
First of all, we are very honored to be selected by Make48 to host the event. Looking at the size of the other cities (Milwaukee, Wichita, Madison ....) and little Stoughton - makes us feel like we hit the big leagues.
How are the Innovation Center Stoughton plans moving forward?
Innovation Center Stoughton Inc. officially incorporated in August of 2021 and received its IRS non-profit status (501c3) in March of 2022. Our board of directors includes the Mayor of Stoughton, Stoughton School District Superintendent, area business leaders and entrepreneurs.
We have received start-up funding of $250,000 from the Wahlin Foundation (Don Wahlin is founder of Stoughton Trailers, a major employer in Stoughton) and we have applied for several large State and Federal grants. The City of Stoughton has recently commited $125,000 for ICS and also supports our grant writing efforts.
What will the Innovation Center provide and who is it most geared to?
Innovation Center Stoughton is a non-profit and outgrowth of our wildly successful FabLab program. It will serve entrepreneurs and startups, incubator programs, and a suite of services for the area businesses - for example spaces for coworking, training, experiential learning events, shared-use equipment, and other activities to help address pressing workforce issues and increase the economic resilience of our region.
We all know employers in the area are struggling to find enough workers with the skills needed to match current job openings, and these openings continue to grow. Helping employers find and train workers in these jobs, in addition to helping all residents and businesses find their path for the next stage of life, is the mission of Innovation Center Stoughton. For more info see us at https://innovationcenterstoughton.org/
Stay tuned and meet the teams who will create a prototype for the Trek Bicycle challenge ‘Sustainable Mobility’ at our Madison-Make48 event at FabLab Stoughton. Learn more about the event on the Madison homepage https://www.make48.com/madison