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Cache Makers Club Sparks Student Creativity And Ingenuity

UPR reporter Taylor Halversen visited the Cache Makers 4-H club. The following is a report of the club including interviews with the co-founders and participating students.

Within a historic building on Logan’s Main Street, I descend the last set of stairs into the Cache Makers club weekly meeting space. The basement room seems to be made of dry-erase boards, covered in the ideas and scribbles of students.

Kids ages 9-15 are engaging computers which line the walls, designing creations to print on the club’s new 3D printer or testing their video game designs and robotic creations. The whirr of a laser wood cutter hums in the background as excited students chatter and stare at it expectantly. The environment is an atmosphere for creation.

These students are in a group called the Cache Makers 4-H club, an after-school program dedicated to sparking student interest in STEM fields through fun and imaginative hands-on activities.

What started out as an idea between two STEM- enthusiasts now has two weekly-meeting groups and a waiting list to get in. Kevin Reeve, one of the co-founders of Cache Makers says there are many kids who want to tinker with STEM-related activities, but may not know where to go to learn.

“What could we do for kids to get them excited to pursue STEM fields like programming or engineering, or 3D design or electronics? That’s where it began. It was just a simple phone call and next thing we know, within a month we’re up and running with 17 kids.”

The co-founders started by teaching the kids programming, but Reeve says it quickly took off from there.

“Within an hour kids had full-functioning games going. It was just amazing to us to just see how quickly these middle school kids could just take off and do it, and they didn’t need much help from us other than pointing them in the right direction.”

The club currently has over 30 kids participating with eight adult mentors. The first group started in October 2013, the second in March.

Reeve and student Avery Ball talk about the capabilities of the 3D printer.

“This is a 3D printer, and so they’ve used a program, a 3D design program, to build objects and they’re going to print them. So Avery, tell her what you designed,” said Reeve.

“It’s like a space dome,” said Ball. “Like that’s the dome and glass. I put another sphere except I just made it flat, and I changed the color to blue, but it won’t really matter when it’s in the printer.”

The other co-founder of the club, Joel Duffin, says the less-structured, creative problem-solving environment is preparing students for a new kind of workplace.

“The most basic law of learning in my book is ‘what you practice doing is what you get good at.’ So, shouldn’t you practice these things that are less-structured than a school environment often is?”  

The club covers various skills, from computer design programs to electronics; the mentors want kids to discover their interests, whatever they may be.

Student Brandon Murphy talks about one of his interests, robotics.   

“One of the projects that I’m trying to make for the summer is a robot that can go underwater and it can drive around with a camera,” said Murphy. “I got a bunch of different tools and I’ve been getting some waterproof stuff that you can use to prevent the wires from getting water on them.”

Reeve says this club is a part of the greater “makers” movement, in which people are focusing on creating things with one’s own mind and hands. He says the future of the club will depend on where the kids want to take it.

“I think the sky’s the limit here with where we’re headed; there’s so much we could explore,” said Reeve. “I think we’ll look at where the kids want to go and what interests they have, and if we can find an adult mentor who’s got some skills in that area who can just be there to mentor them, we’ll go that way. We may be doing high-altitude balloons, model rockets, building our own robots and programming the electronics and soldering them to make them work, more 3D design and printing—all skills that the workforce in the next generation is going to need.”

For more information on the club, visit the Cache Maker’s website