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Door, Kewaunee counties: Help shape new STEM center to boost jobs

Author: Casey M Fryda

Wednesday August 31, 2016

Local partners are getting closer to creating a high-tech, all-ages makerspace for the Door Peninsula with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. NWTC is finalizing the purchase of a building in Sister Bay for a Learning and Innovation Center. The public is asked to give further input about what they would like the Center to do.

Northern Door County business leaders and NWTC plan two additional listening sessions with residents to learn more about what the facilities should offer and who would use them. The Center is intended to be an NWTC facility that is shaped by local communities to create new businesses and jobs. 

What the Learning and Innovation Center is

The proposed makerspace would be an NWTC-furnished facility to support inventors who want to build a new product, residents who want to sell goods or services, and kids interested in STEM exploration.  According to the web site www.makerspaces.com, makerspaces typically “have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.” But the heart of a makerspace is not technology. “It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace. 

Public asked for more input

Prototyping student smiles while holding parts in the labNow, organizers are setting up two more public input sessions to find out who would likely use the facility and what they would use it for. Interested Door Peninsula residents are invited to the Baylake Bank site in Sister Bay for one of the following sessions:

-         Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.
-         Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

Current direction and ideas

Based on input so far from more than 250 Northern Door residents, employers and community leaders, NWTC and Nicolet Bank are finalizing NWTC’s purchase of the Baylake Bank building in Sister Bay on Wisconsin Highways 42 and 57. Possibilities currently under consideration include a culinary lab with commercial kitchen facilities; a fabrication lab with shared equipment and tools for prototype development; and a lab for information technology and related skill development. The College would also provide online courses in business, health sciences and more at the site via videoconference.

However, no final decisions have been made. The center is intended to meet needs identified by the communities themselves, and to focus on what is most important to the region’s residents. 

There are no current plans for the Learning and Innovation Center to replace any similar facilities in the region. Community leaders want to create a new resource that would serve multiple industries.

Background on the Learning and Innovation Center

The Learning and Innovation Center idea arose from discussions among leaders in the Liberty Grove area who were looking for ways to spur economic development and retain young talent in the area. They approached NWTC to propose a partnership. Dean Stewart, NWTC’s Dean for Corporate Training and Economic Development, now facilitates the group as it works to provide more programming and equipment in Northern Door to support new product development and exploration.

Estimated timeline

Depending on community comments and other arrangements, work on the Northern Door learning and business hub could begin in fall 2016. 

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