Dr. John Sample
While this school year is nearing the end, we are working hard to implement many exciting changes for Merrill Area Public Schools. Our staff and administrative team remain focused on the priorities that were identified at the Community Conversation event held at the beginning of the year.
As I am out in the community, my conversations with others often leads to the question, “What exactly is a fab lab?” The term fab lab is an abbreviation for fabrication lab. It is defined as a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication. A fab lab is generally equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make “almost anything.”
Many of us have experienced “shop classes” when we were in high school. Shop classes incorporated hands on experiences in the areas of automotives, woods, building, metals and even upholstery. The fab lab, or production lab, is basically the same as the shop class we remember but incorporates the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (also known as STEAM). Students must use critical thinking skills in order to solve a problem or manufacture a product.
Creativity, critical thinking skills, producing/reading blue prints, automation and the use of technology are just a few areas evident in the business and manufacturing industries today. MAPS administration has had the opportunity to meet with several area businesses and understand the skills and mindset our students must have in order to be successful in these industries. We will continue to partner with area businesses as it is our responsibility to prepare all students for the career they choose.
Why the emphasis on manufacturing and production? We see this as an area of need for our students and a void in our current educational model. One doesn’t need to look far to realize the importance of manufacturing, production and farming/agriculture in our area. These industries provide a well-balanced economy for our area. However, like most businesses, the “baby boomers” are nearing retirement age. They need young people to fill this void in order to remain solvent. While we continue to prepare those students planning to obtain their college degrees at the university or college of their choice, we need to provide the same preparation for those students choosing to enter the competitive field of production. As consumers, we can all be thankful for the production industry.
Did you know?
Jay Stadium’s renovation is certainly a source of pride for the community. It is gaining attention throughout the state as a quality venue for a variety of student events.
One important fact must be clarified regarding the funding of the Jay Stadium project. I’ve heard mention that the school district budgeted a lot of money into something that only benefits a few students and families. The fact is, MAPS only funded $180,000 toward this spectacular facility. This dollar amount was not chosen at random. This would have been the cost of providing additional dirt, grass seed, fertilizer and grading the field for proper drainage.
As we were preparing to improve the grass field, the idea of artificial turf was discussed. This idea grew to include improvements to the entire area. A fundraising campaign was launched and partnerships with area businesses were made. It was only due to the generosity of many in our community that a project of this magnitude has become a reality.
The bottom line: MAPS funded $180,000 of a project that cost $2,644,388.13. While those are large numbers to those of us typically balancing household budgets, here’s another perspective. By taking away a few zeroes in order to understand the impact of our community funding, MAPS spent 18 cents for a project totalling just over $2.66.
We are lucky to have such an active and caring community.