By Maria Grzywa 

University of Wisconsin–Stout’s fabrication lab, or Discovery Center FABLAB, was especially busy Oct. 5, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stopped by for a tour. He arrived shortly before noon and stayed until 1:15 p.m., long enough to visit the fabrication and packaging labs in Applied Arts and the Plastics Engineering lab in Jarvis Hall.

Walker toured the labs as part of his “Working for Wisconsin” tour, which aims to push positive reforms focused on improving state government through developing a workforce that grows Wisconsin’s economy. The “Working for Wisconsin” campaign stems from Walker’s work with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The DWD has awarded, Wisconsin Fast Forward – Blueprint for Prosperity, $2.1 million in grants for schools. This funding is to go towards school-to-work programs that stress hands-on learning and developing workforce skills before high school graduation.

The FABLAB is a workshop for creative, high-tech innovators on campus. This hands-on environment, which stresses the importance of developing critical skills prior to graduation, is what Walker hopes to see across Wisconsin schools, kindergarten through twelfth grade. The FABLAB serves as an example to the possible reforms for K-12 education.

“It was a good opportunity to demonstrate the linkages between UW–Stout and the innovators on campus and throughout the community,” said Randall Hulke, the executive director of the FABLAB and Applied Research and Technology.

Walker is particularly interested in Stout’s efforts to integrate the FABLAB’s experiences into K-12 schools in Wisconsin. “UW–Stout is a leader in this area,” said Hulke.

Faculty and staff were pleased with Walker’s visit because he showed great interest in the improvements in the FABLAB and the involvements that students, faculty and community members shared within this creative forum. “The FABLAB staff appreciated the opportunity to show the governor the progress we are making in integrating digital technologies into student learning and applied research,” said Hulke.

Walker was greeted by students, faculty and staff upon arriving at the Applied Arts building on campus. “Representatives of student government were part of the reception line that he passed through on his way from plastics to packaging,” said Hulke.

Other students waited in the reception line to address Walker on policies he has put in place since being elected. Molly Harvey, a Human Development and Family Studies junior at Stout, had a chance to meet Walker during his tour. “A small group of students and I went so we could try to express to the governor some of our concerns that we have for our education and some of his policies,” said Harvey.

Some of his policies that students wanted to address were his attempts to cut teachers’ unions, budget cuts to the UW–System and LGBT rights. “It is obvious that education is not a priority for our governor,” said Harvey. “Many of the students that were in Applied Arts with me expressed that they wanted education to be a priority over the next couple of years.”

Harvey, along with other students, also wanted to take the opportunity to address Walker’s opinions about the LGBT community. “Walker has publically spoken out against LGBT rights and [his] lack of concern for the most vulnerable population in our state greatly concerns me,” said Harvey. “I am very apprehensive about what he will do over the next two and half years.”

During his visit, Walker emphasized the value of Stout’s education and the work that the university does to prepare students to contribute to challenging careers. “He believes [Fab Lab’s] provide individuals with the technologies and tools that will be required for Wisconsin’s economy to continue to grow and succeed,” said Hulke.

Although Walker stressed the importance of the hands-on learning Stout provides, students still feel more can be done about their educational rights. “We as UW students and Wisconsin citizens need to speak out to our government, and let them know that our rights and our education are important to us,” said Harvey.

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