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Editor's note: This story has been update to reflect corrected information.

SOMERS — University of Wisconsin leaders are working this fall to make sure everyone knows the impact the system makes on the communities it serves.

UW representatives, including UW System President Ray Cross, Regent President Andrew S. Petersen and Regent Janice Mueller visited Parkside on Monday for the system’s first in a series of “All In Wisconsin” tours.

“We’re really harnessing the economic value, the civic value of our campuses in their regions,” Petersen said.

He said he’s long thought the UW System needs to improve on showcasing the value it contributes to communities across the states and at telling its own story.

Monday morning, UW representatives had breakfast with 55 business and civic leaders to speak about new program development and internship and cooperative learning opportunities.

Real-world experiences

In a tour of the campus, Parkside officials showcased some of business partnerships that provide students with real-world experience.

New this year is Parkside’s GIS Factory, modeled after its App Factory.

In these factories, students work on projects for real-world, paying clients.

Currently, students in the GIS Factory are working to map out vegetation around the Root River to help with sustainability plans and may assist on a sewer project with Somers. The university just finished a new and expanded GIS lab at Parkside.

Through a partnership with the company Shimadzu, Parkside trades in outdated equipment in its SC Johnson Integrated Science Lab to the company and pays only the difference for new equipment.

In exchange, Shimadzu sends potential buyers from the region to Parkside to check out the equipment in action, which is more efficient than sending the equipment to the potential buyer to be assembled, then disassembled and sent back after it’s tested.

Current projects being run by students include development of a new film to package bread to keep it from molding and the testing of hemp plants prior to harvest to ensure the THC levels don’t surpass the mark to classify them as marijuana.

Design, fabrication

In the Digital Design & Fabrication Lab, a colorful display of student creations was laid on a table, including whimsical glasses, sculptures and other works of art made from metal.

Students first sketch out designs for these creations, input them into a computer-aided design program and then translate that into fabrication on various machines.

The lab, which opened last fall, is equipped with a plasma cutter that cuts steel, a laser cutter, a 3-D printer and a milling machine.

Importance of partnerships

Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford said the university was founded on community partnerships and wants to continue promoting and growing them.

“There has never been a time when partnerships are more important than they are today,” Cross said.

The “All In Wisconsin” tour will continue into mid-December, with visits to campuses in River Falls, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Eau Claire (with Stout), Superior, Stevens Point and Whitewater.

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