WiFab Retreat West last year went all virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 17 middle and high school educators from across the state attended WiFab Retreat West this year. Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton will host WiFab Retreat East Tuesday, July 13, through Thursday, July 15.
Mike Cropp, UW-Stout Fab Lab manager, teaches the retreats with Steve Meyer, manager of STEM education and development at Fox Valley Technical College, and Laurence Charlier, fab lab director at Northwestern High School in Maple and a technology and engineering teacher.
“It was great to be back in person again,” Cropp said. “Everyone can sit in the Fab Lab, work on a project and talk about it together. It’s a great networking opportunity and to learn from one another. We want them to be creative in the solutions while they are thinking and problem-solving.”
Meyer said those teachers then take that knowledge back to classrooms to help create the next generation of problem-solvers. “Techniques are changing so quickly it’s hard to know what the technology will be,” Meyer said. “We do know every kid in the future needs to think. We want kids to do continuous improvement and learn how to make things better all the time. This is about collaboration and making sure students go on to be more innovative in the future.”
Charles Nolt, a WiFab Retreat West participant, begins his teaching career in the technology department at Northwestern High School this fall. Nolt has been a mechanical engineer for the past seven years working at Boston Scientific and at a custom lighting company in Utah in research and development.
Nolt was looking for a change and wanted to start a career that would have an impact on and make a difference for future generations.
“The biggest takeaway for me has not been the technical but an introduction to the educators,” he said. “These people are involved. They have passion and compassion. It’s inspiring to me. They are the people I want to become.”