Van Hollen, Murkowski, Foster, Young Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Spur Innovation through National Network of Fab Labs
Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) reintroduced the National Fab Lab Network Act, legislation to expand Fab Labs across the country. Fab Labs are facilities equipped with digitally-controlled tools – such as laser cutters, 3D printers, and automated knives – that provide training and enable individuals to create and innovate new products. To encourage the growth and expansion of new and current Fab Labs and to help more innovators access this opportunity, the legislation creates a nonprofit organization to serve as a central funding source for Fab Labs across the country and to help foster public-private partnerships to create more Fab Labs.
“A national network of Fab Labs will help keep our country on the forefront of innovation – connecting students and entrepreneurs with new technologies and providing them with the chance to turn creative ideas into reality. These facilities have the ability to spur local business and boost entrepreneurship, ultimately helping to foster a dynamic economy that works for all Americans,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I urge the Congress to take up this bipartisan legislation to help grow American innovation and increase access to new opportunities across our nation.”
“Fab Labs help students and entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to both be successful in the 21st-century economy and tackle some of our most pressing scientific and engineering challenges. These facilities allow students of all ages to tap into their STEM and problem-solving potential by giving them direct experience with design programs, electronic and programming tools, and industrial-grade manufacturing equipment,” said Senator Murkowski. “I am proud to join Senator Van Hollen and Representative Foster in reintroducing the National Fab Lab Network Act, which would broaden access to these cutting-edge technologies and tools, help to maintain U.S. leadership in innovation, and ultimately stimulate our economy.”
“Fab Labs are an excellent way to give students of all ages an opportunity to explore STEM in an interactive way - encouraging new ideas through curiosity and creativity,” Representative Foster said. “New ideas become the innovations that are vital to economic growth in our country. A National Fab Lab Network will help expose more Americans of all backgrounds to STEM, which will help keep America at the forefront of scientific and technological innovation.”
"Now more than ever, it is crucial that our workforce is equipped to succeed in the economy of the 21st Century," said Congressman Don Young. "Fab Labs have a proven record of fostering growth in STEM fields and helping individuals create new and innovative products. I am proud to join Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Bill Foster in introducing the National Fab Lab Network Act, which will help expand these facilities within Alaska and across our nation. One of Alaska's greatest resources is our young people. Giving them hands-on experience with computer science, advanced manufacturing, and other new technologies will not only help them secure good jobs, but will help Alaska lead the way in entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Maryland is currently home to five Fab Labs: Fab Lab Baltimore in Baltimore City, the Community College of Baltimore County Fab Lab in Cantonsville, Bullis BITlab in Potomac, St. James Fab Lab in Hagerstown, and the Maryland NanoCenter Fab Lab in College Park. Alaska is home to CITC Fab Lab in Anchorage, and Illinois is also home to several Fab Labs. Overall, there are currently over 200 Fab Labs across the United States.
The National Fab Lab Network Act would create a nonprofit organization consisting of a national network of local Fab Labs to provide universal access to advanced manufacturing tools for workforce development, education, and entrepreneurship. The goal of the Network would be to establish at least one Fab Lab for every 700,000 people, or roughly one lab in every Congressional district. A copy of the legislation can be found here.
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