Cre8lab offers STEM tools, training in Neenah

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - A nonprofit in Neenah strives to be a place where people can collaborate and learn about STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.

People can often find a number of projects in production at Cre8lab in Neenah.

“Cre8lab is the Valley’s only nonprofit maker space,” said Executive Director Eric Brehm.

The member-based shop lets people access a variety of tools and equipment and provides training on how to use them to build whatever creation comes to mind.

“We started quite a few years ago in STEM for kids,” said Brehm. “We worked with other nonprofits to get an Idea Lab together. We realized that the leaders had just as much of an interest in this as kids did.”

So, Brehm and his business partner Adam started up Cre8lab in December, 2019, giving adults interested in STEM a place to learn and invent.

“We learned that there’s people that have gone their whole life without learning woodworking, soldering, and also have some interest in getting into more of the technology side,” said Brehm. “The CNCs, the lasers. It’s something we can easily teach to them and they can create a hobby of their own.”

“It gives me a chance to make bigger things, or make better things and collaborate with the other members,” said Jeff Faul. “It allows me to really have a place that’s just dedicated to doing projects.”

The member fees Faul and others pay go to monthly bills and supplies. Any donations received go to the organization’s STEM classes for kids, which have included things from soldering circuits to building bug hotels and bird houses.

“They seem to be enjoying learning, and that’s been our passion. We’re always tinkerers since we were kids,” said Brehm. “When you learn to take apart a radio or something like that and fix it, that’s what we kind of want to pass onto kids that don’t really get that opportunity anymore because they’re on their iPhone.”

“It’s great to see how enthusiastic they are and how much they love doing it,” said Faul. “It kind of reminds me of my childhood when I used to take apart the hair dryer and try to figure out how it worked and have to throw it in the garbage. They get to do it in a different setting where they’re soldering and they’re building something and they get to take it home with them.”

Having to shutdown briefly only a few months after opening because of the pandemic wasn’t ideal, but Brehm says they used that time to help.

“We donated 28,000 ear savers to front-liners, which gave us a really nice connection to the community,” said Brehm.

During that time the members they already had helped them maintain, and now things are looking up.

“When we finally opened the doors people started coming in, getting new memberships, bringing their kids in,” said Brehm. “We’ve noticed the kids classes now are picking back up, people are feeling a little bit more comfortable.”

He and other members encourage people to give it a try.

“If you don’t know how to do something, a lot of times the members will step up and teach. We have members that know laving, that know coding, that know all kinds of stuff,” said Brehm. “So we’re never really stumped here, I’ve never had anybody walk in the door and got me and I didn’t know how to build the project they wanted to do.”

“There’s so much that we have to offer,” said Faul. “There’s everything here, so you’re going to find something that you like to do.”

Brehm hopes to expand and bring in more types of tools and equipment in the near future to keep their creative community collaborations going.

“As my business partner likes to say, you come for the tools and you stay for the people,” said Brehm.

Learn more about Cre8lab through its Facebook page.

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