BRAINERD -- A fabrication lab at Kelliher Public Schools earned the district a Profile of Excellence Award last Monday from the Minnesota Rural Education Association.

The “fab lab” includes a 3D printer, vinyl cutter, laser engraver, plasma cutter, and a mill.

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“The program allows students to create cutting-edge industry products that rival those produced in the commercial world,” said Fred Nolan, the education association’s executive director, at an awards ceremony in Brainerd.

“The program is a framework for classes and curricula that equip and empower students, staff, and even community members to come together and create.”

An area Soil and Water Conservation district worked with the school to make replicas of aquatic invasive species and a retired veteran helped make a drone there.

Education association members pointed to a 150 percent increase in the number of students registering for courses that use the lab, and said discipline referrals have “significantly” dropped.

“This program is providing students with a high-level of market-ready experience,” Nolan said. “What the fabrication lab is imparting to students will set them up for success quickly upon graduation.”