Gizmo Continues In Major "Making" Mode

May 5, 2020

Gizmo staff and volunteers in Coeur d'Alene have been making masks and face shields for first responders and health professionals for the last month.
Credit Courtesy of Gizmo

A few weeks ago, we told you about Gizmo, the Coeur d’Alene-based non-profit innovation lab that was making face shields for first responders and health care workers in Kootenai County.

“It’s just been a high-energy time of transferring our knowledge and re-creating things in a better way. It’s just been beautiful," said Gizmo co-owner Barb Mueller.

We checked in again a few days ago and found that Gizmo is busier than ever.

According to Mueller, Gizmo continues to make face shields.

“It started out they were being used by the police department and the fire department and then they were used by the hospital and then they went into use by Panhandle Health," Mueller said.

And the Panhandle Health District shared them with rural providers and dentists.

“What worked for all those other components kind of got changed because dentists wear loops to be able to see up close better. And, all of a sudden, we had to re-design the shield to be able to have the loop fit in there. So that gave us an opportunity to iterate and change the design a little bit to be able to be used by another part of the health care workers," she said.

Mueller estimates Gizmo has made more than a thousand face shields. Volunteer crews at mask-making parties set up stations several feet apart and work together to fill big orders.

Gizmo has also recently begun making N-95 masks for health care workers.

"Now we’re in the mold-making process, where you make what you call bucks for the shape of that and that you put the material over it and put it into the vacuum former and it forms that shape that the mask will be," she said.

Mueller hopes to have a batch ready for delivery by the end of this week.

Another Gizmo project benefits children who have been abused and who are represented by court appointed special advocates, or CASA. Many of the abused kids, who bounce around the foster system, don’t have regular access to technology or technological support.

Gizmo makes a variety of science and technology kits for children who don't have much access to computers and the Internet.
Credit Courtesy of Gizmo

“But if you can take some educational components and build out some really fun ways of doing them, then the kid who doesn’t have that opportunity will have the opportunity to have this kit to be able to continue learning in new ways," she said.

Mueller’s team developed those age-appropriate science and technology kits. Younger children get projects that allow them to put seeds in the ground and learn how plants grow. Some children get templates that allow them to build robots.

“We cut out the laser-cut pieces. They put them together. They got legos that had challenge cards in them; a lot of mathematical stuff and a lot of stuff around building," she said.

Mueller included for kids of all ages a Covid-19 diary where they can write what they’re doing and feeling. The kits are distributed to CASA volunteers.

“The volunteers who work with these kids through the court system take this kit to the child. They can see what’s going on in the household where they are and then they have this interaction with the kid, playing with the things that are in the kit,” she said.

Gizmo’s core function is to teach. It also has an innovative educator program that works with teachers develop their skills in project-based learning. She says those educators have developed lists of projects that parents can do while they’re at home with their children. Find them at Gizmo-CDA.org.