Local News

CDA students fuse technology, creativity and garner international attention

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Step inside and the different toys and tools would suggest that Gizmo is a place where you learn where to build stuff. 

It is. But, that's not the only lesson taught inside this Coeur d'Alene classroom.

“The idea of a makerspace is to teach people to be the creators of technology and other things, not the consumers,” said Barb Mueller, who founded Gizmo.

Whether age six or sixty, people are full of  ideas. Gizmo helps to turn those ideas into projects, using technology.

“I think we get defined, I think Gizmo gets defined as a place where you can come and get to build robots. And I think that's not really what we do, though we do that well,” Mueller said.

What do they really do?  Gizmo classes teach  (and adults) to use innovation to help someone else.
And for one group of middle school engineers in training, that someone else is  Barrett Limtiaco-Ruppel.

“Total Star Wars kid. Total Star Wars family. I think he loves Star Wars more than his dad and I. So that's saying something,” said Barrett's mom, Janai Limtiaco.

Like most five-year-olds, Barrett knows what he likes. Unlike most of his peers, he has cerebral palsy that significantly limits his mobility.

“He can't really walk sit stand, do much on his own. We're of course working towards independence, but it's going to be... it's a marathon, not a sprint,” Limtiaco said.

The Gizmo kids wanted to do something about that. .

“We were approached by Gizmo for them to build and modify a car for Barrett,” Limtiaco said.

Building a car is a project. Building a car that fits the unique needs of a driver with different abilities is a life lesson.

“We took them through what it felt like to have disabilities. They spent some time with a blindfold on  making a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, walking through a place where they hadn't been before, drawing with their mouth or using a computer,” Mueller said.

Today, Barrett got to test drive his new ride. It's built to support his body, and also his love for Star Wars: Eventually, the car will have a functioning sound system that makes lightsaber and plays that oh-so-famous theme.

“He is a happy kid, period on the sentence, and this is just him, being even happier.

The middle schoolers who built the car have cause to be happy too. Their project placed fourth among 10,000 entries from students across the world in the Inventor's Challenge, organized by the Imagination Foundation and AT&T.