Spokane Journal of Business

Cd’A makerspace boasts new director, mobile lab

Gizmo-cda offers tools, education for schools, community members

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-Virginia Thomas
Gizmo-cda Inc. executive director Erin Lanigan says more than 500 educators in North Idaho have worked with the nonprofi t.

Coeur d’Alene nonprofit makerspace Gizmo-cda Inc. has a new mobile makerspace, as well as a new executive director to lead the organization.

On the Coeur d’Alene campus of North Idaho College, Gizmo’s 11,000-square-foot space in the Hedlund Building is filled with machines and materials. The central space is devoted to textiles, vinyl, and various cutting and printing machines involved in each material.

Gizmo provides training, tools, classes, and some materials for creative types of all ages.

Erin Lanigan, executive director, says the creative arts lab was placed intentionally at the heart of the space.

“Barb and Marty Mueller, who are our founders, felt like the first place you needed to see when you walked into the makerspace was something that was a bit more inviting to everyone,” Lanigan says.

Lanigan became executive director in late August, when co-founder Barb Muller retired from that position. Lanigan previously had worked for the nonprofit in the innovative educator role, in which she coordinated with schools for classes and field trips for students, professional development for teachers, and worked to get items from Gizmo’s lending library into the hands of teachers.

Lanigan was introduced to Gizmo, which serves all ages, by her family when they moved from Montana four years ago.

“My kids were involved in the robotics program back home in Montana, so they wanted to find robotics when we moved here,” Lanigan says. “They and my husband found Gizmo, and my husband called and said, oh my gosh, you’ve got to come see this place.”

In addition to textiles and vinyl, Gizmo offers spaces devoted to woodworking, metalworking, welding, clay, electronics, and gems and stones, as well as a green-screen studio adjacent to a computer lab. Gizmo is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and by appointment on Sunday.

The newest addition to Gizmo is parked near the nonprofit’s parking lot entrance--an enclosed trailer called the Think Make Create Lab, one of seven mobile makerspaces in Idaho. Gizmo received the trailer this past spring and has been working to build it out.

A collaboration between the Idaho STEM Action Center, the Idaho State Department of Education, the Idaho Division of Career and Technical Education, the Idaho STEM Ecosystem, and the Idaho Out of School Network brought the trailer to Gizmo. Lanigan says the aim of the collaboration is to bring STEM experiences to students in outlying areas of Idaho through mobile makerspaces.

“Idaho is a bit spread out, so it’s nice to have a way to get to communities that maybe otherwise couldn’t come to us,” Lanigan says.

Initially, Gizmo was tasked with building and filling the Think Make Create mobile labs.

“It became clear pretty quickly that we would also be a really great host of the trailer,” Lanigan says. “We hosted a girls woodworking camp this summer, and they’re the ones who built all of the shelving for it. We also did some training with them on some of the materials that are in the trailer so that they could be ambassadors.”

The trailer contains materials for a wide variety of projects, Lanigan says.

“There are hundreds of different items,” Lanigan says. “To a person who’s maybe not as familiar with makerspaces, they would look like crafting items. There’s lots of straws and toothpicks and things like that.”

One project the Think Make Create lab offers is geared toward teaching elementary school-age children basic robotics. Using a tiny motor, a battery, and a toothbrush head, kids can create a micro robot.

Lanigan says relationships with education entities and schools have been vital to Gizmo since its inception in 2014. More than 500 educators in North Idaho have worked with the nonprofit, she says.

A significant part of Gizmo’s efforts to work with local schools and homeschooled students has been promoting Gizmo’s lending library, she says. The library contains hundreds of items members can go online to rent, including tabletop laser cutters, books about coding, materials to create mini robots, and microscopes.

“We want to get into the hands of educators items that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” Lanigan says.

Lanigan hopes to find enough grant funding to purchase a vehicle dedicated to pulling the trailer.

Lanigan estimates 60-70% of the nonprofit’s $140,000 annual budget comes from grants.

Memberships provide roughly 20% of Gizmo’s total funding, Lanigan says.

Gizmo offers memberships for high school and college students priced at $36 per month for eight hours per month of time with tools. For community members, a “tinker” membership costs $48 for eight hours of tool time, a “maker” membership is $68 for 20 hours of tool time per month, and a pro membership allows members unlimited tool access for $110 per month. A family membership allows a household up to 40 hours with tools for $108 per month.

Corporate memberships, which provide unlimited tool time for up to three people from a business, cost $200 per month. Lanigan says some entrepreneurs use Gizmo tools in their prototyping process, while others go to Gizmo to work on their side gig. 

“We have a lot of folks who have Etsy shops and have found that, rather than hand-cutting something, it makes a lot more sense to be able to come here and be able to produce way more of whatever it is they’re creating,” Lanigan says.

People who are interested in becoming a member at Gizmo must first complete either a class or a mentor hour, in which they work with a Gizmo employee mentor or a volunteer mentor to get certified in using certain tools safely.

The length of time spent with a mentor depends on the skill someone wants to learn and their prior experience, Lanigan says. Someone who’s already familiar with a tool can sometimes demonstrate proficiency in about 15 minutes, while other mentors can spend up to two hours teaching someone who’s new to a certain tool.

After they’re certified, people can become a member. Any member already certified can ask for additional time with a mentor, Lanigan says.

Gizmo’s membership rate suffered during the pandemic. Lanigan says about 70 people are currently members--half the number of members Gizmo had in 2019. Membership numbers are rebounding, however; Lanigan says about a dozen new members joined in October.

Gizmo currently has five employees. Lanigan says that’s the most employees the nonprofit has ever had. Historically, Gizmo has relied on volunteers in addition to its executive director to provide mentorship and classes.

About a dozen people regularly volunteer at Gizmo, Lanigan says.

Gizmo initially was established in a smaller, roughly 1,100-square-foot space on Fourth Street in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Lanigan says. The nonprofit moved to its current space in 2017.

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Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the health care industry. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys travelling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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