In 2013, the citizens of Coeur d’Alene collaborated to create a vision of what their community could look for future generations by the year 2030. During this process, many expressed a desire to have a community makerspace. Barbara “Barb” and Martin “Marty” Mueller took on this challenge, and in 2014 they founded Gizmo-CDA, “a nonprofit makerspace where art, design, tools, and technology are connected by the hands and minds of those in our community.”
No strangers to innovation and creativity, Marty, Barb, and a shop full of local machinists and an electronics expert designed and built a camera for IMAX to film “Space Station” which was released in 2002 and documented seven flights of the space shuttle Discovery and the second phase of space station construction. In a 2015 interview with the CDA Press, Marty noted that he drew on inspiration from working with the TeraViks, the Coeur d’Alene high school robotics team. He loved seeing the lights going off the high school students’ heads when they made connections between what they’d learned in school and what they did in the shop.
Gizmo began with 2,600 square feet on 4th street in CDA and offered classes, mentorship, membership opportunities, community events, and countless other opportunities to inspire all ages and skill levels of makers. Then, in 2018, Gizmo had the opportunity to collaborate with North Idaho College and were given 8,500 square feet of space in the Hedlund building to expand the opportunities they provide to the community. Today they now have 11,000 square feet of actively utilized space including a woodshop, machine shop, welding studio, blacksmithing studio, pottery studio, computer lab, gathering space, lapidary, and so much more.
Executive director Erin Lanigan shares one of her favorite aspects of Gizmo’s mission, which is to serve everyone of all ages and abilities, or “pre-K through gray”. “While we offer classes for every age group, one of my favorite things about Gizmo is that you’ll often see intergenerational collaborations. It’s not uncommon to have a 12-year-old who knows how to work our CNC mill who then teaches a 40-year-old how to use it. We are all learning from one another and everyone’s expertise and skill sets don’t depend on age. It’s much more about someone’s interests and what they’ve decided to dig deeper into. It’s really cool to see all ages working together,” Erin explains.
Erin recounts that she and her family moved to CDA from Helena, MT in 2018. Erin’s husband and sons were part of a robotics program in Montana and wanted to find an opportunity to stay involved with robotics, which ultimately led them to Gizmo. “I love to learn and I’m super curious. When I first met my husband, I told him I want to be a professional learner. So when we found Gizmo, I started volunteering right away. My first two years, I was an innovative educator through AmeriCorps Vista and served students ages pre-K through 20 in schools around the area and in homeschools,” Erin shares.
Prior to coming to CDA, Erin managed a Montessori school and expanded their programming from serving only preschool age children to ultimately serving infants through elementary age children. So in the fall of 2021 when Barb announced her plans to retire and look for an executive director, Erin decided to throw her hat in the ring. “I really wanted to see this space exist indefinitely for the community of CDA and I had ideas to ensure Gizmo’s longevity. That period when an organization transitions from being led by its founder to the next executive director can be a tricky time. Having helped the Montessori school in Helena transition from its local founder to having me as an executive director, I had a unique skillset to bring to Gizmo,” Erin notes.
“It was a very lovely transition. It really helped to have developed relationships with the staff during my time volunteering. And Barb continues to be a fantastic resource in our community! We still meet regularly and trust one another,” Erin says with a big smile.
What is unique about Gizmo’s makerspace is the breadth of equipment and knowledge their volunteers and mentors have to offer. “Many makerspaces put a larger focus on one specific area, whereas we are very broad. This allows us to cater to people (and businesses) of all different interests and skill levels,” Erin explains.
Erin shares that Gizmo has developed many cherished connections with other organizations both in the community of CDA and the inland Northwest. “Last spring we partnered with Children’s Village to help them with an interactive sensory park they are building to enhance the experience of the children they serve. We created six unique instruments from the children to play with to engage their sense of sound. We’ve also partnered with CDA ACT (formerly Out of The Shadows Theater) to assist them in set design and production and creation of promotional materials.”
Gizmo serves five regions in Northern Idaho, Spokane County, and several other counties in Eastern Washington. While their physical location is in CDA, Gizmo offers a lending library to provide educators around Idaho with the equipment they need to have hands-on, creative activities with their students. One of Gizmo’s Innovative Educators travels to Plummer weekly to host Maker Monday programming for the Plummer-Worley School District. Additionally, Gizmo boasts a mobile Think, Make, Create (TMC) Lab Trailer to reach rural and underrepresented communities. “Our trailer was designed and built during a girl’s woodworking class we held in the summer of 2021. That same design has since been used to create 16 of the 25 TMC Lab Trailers across Idaho,” Erin shares.
Of note, Gizmo hosts summer camps for children ages 7-18 and there are still a few spaces left for this coming summer! Be sure to check out their website at www.gizmo-cda.org. If you are interested in helping Gizmo continue to serve the community of CDA and the inland Northwest and you have the means to donate your time, expertise, equipment, or money, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates and great photos, be sure to follow Gizmo on FB, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin!