District seeks $20,000 to equip facility that officials say will be first of kind in county
Plans to upgrade technology education facilities at Grafton High School took another step forward Monday.
The School Board passed a resolution supporting an application for a $20,097 grant to help equip a fabrication laboratory that would be used by engineering and mechanical design classes and serve other departments.
The application was submitted to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. as part of a statewide technology education funding initiative.
Grafton plans to spend $26,796 to equip the lab, with the district providing matching funds of $6,699. The matching funds will include $3,349 each from the district and a donation by the Grafton Manufacturers Alliance.
“We think the lab is a novel thing that would set Grafton ahead of other schools,” Supt. Mel Lightner told the board.
“It’s not only going to benefit our engineering and design classes, but other science, technology, art and math classes.”
The lab project is being coordinated by technology teachers Carl Hader, Kevin Gain and Mike Dodge, who helped prepare the grant application.
The $26,796 would be used to buy a laser engraver ($16,000), two 3-D printers ($4,998) and two computer numerical control routers ($5,798). The equipment can be used for a variety of projects, including allowing students to see 3-D images of their work, Hader said.
The equipment would complement other electronics, hydraulics and pneumatics workbenches at the school.
Plans call for the lab, which would be portable, to be installed in a room adjacent to the existing art classrooms. Eventually, the lab could be moved into a new technology education center proposed as part of a $49.5 million upgrade project that will be decided by district voters in a spring referendum.
Hader and Gain told the board the lab would be the only one of its kind in Ozaukee County schools and an important step in upgrading Grafton’s overcrowded and outmoded technology department.
The lab would provide hands-on learning experiences, help students develop job-ready skills before graduating and be used by local manufacturers to train workers. In turn, Hader said, the lab should attract more students to technology classes.
“We’re hoping that with more output, we can increase (overall) enrollment by 10% and female enrollment by 20%,” he said.
More girls are likely to enroll in technology classes if the courses are taught in a cleaner engineering lab setting, according to Hader, head of the school’s automotive technology department.
Gain, who teaches woodworking, said the lab would be used in an array of academic courses at each high school grade level, including art and business education projects. John Long Middle School students would also have access to the lab.
“It’s not just to benefit our departments,” Gain said.
If the grant is awarded, the lab is expected to be built this summer and be available for use in fall classes, Hader said.
“This is not just for the future, this is what we can do now,” Lightner said.
“This is high-tech, innovative, product-based education. High-tech skills are in demand.”
Officials cited the support of the Grafton Manufacturers Alliance as crucial to the lab project and other technology education upgrades. The alliance, which was formed in 2012, is a partnership of local manufacturing companies, the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce and the school district.
The alliance has donated equipment, including a Haas mini-mill and plasma cutter, and backed the district’s purchase of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.
On Jan. 16, more than 40 alliance members attended a meeting to learn about the lab project.
Dodge, who teaches metals and mechanical design classes, praised the initiative.
“It’s a big thing. It’s an important step for us trying to move forward,” he said last week. “The bottom line is that we have a chance to help Grafton students better prepare for careers after they graduate.”
The lab may become part of a major overhaul of district facilities that voters will consider in the Tuesday, April 5, election.
The $49.5 million referendum will be divided into two questions.
One question will ask voters to approve $47.7 million in borrowing for additions, remodeling, renovations and upgrades to all district buildings and construction of a new middle school and technical education center.
A second question will ask to borrow $1.8 million for improvements and repairs to outdoor physical education, athletic and community recreation areas.