When Moscow resident Jody Opheim was looking for after-school activities for her science-minded daughter, she grew frustrated at the lack of options. "I have a geek daughter," she laughs. “And there wasn’t a lot for her to do.” Opheim turned her frustration into inspiration and the idea of Eureka! Palouse was born.
Eureka! Palouse is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) tinkering and tutoring center designed to ignite children's imaginations and equip them with the tools and confidence to experiment, learn, and create. The board members include science educators, engineers, and faculty and staff members from nearby universities. Eureka! Palouse depends on the support of community partners and volunteers. The key sponsor, Frontier Communications, has allowed Eureka! Palouse to utilize a large building that easily accommodates the tinkering studio, the free play room for smaller scientists, and a computer room for coding challenges.
“We call it the Fortress of Nerditude,” says Opheim. Nerds and nerds-in-training are welcome to utilize the many different resources and programs offered to increase their knowledge and spark their imaginations.
Kaitlyn’s Room is a free-play area set up for children 3-7 years old. Kids have access to a variety of blocks and building toys and are introduced to basic STEM concepts. In the tinkering studio, kids and adults alike can learn the proper use of a variety of tools to build their imaginative creations. Tools available include basic construction tools to flying drones and 3D printers. Trained volunteers are on hand to teach and guide students and give them confidence to build and create on their own. Dr. Tim Ewers is one of the specialists available to help newcomers to the tinkering studio. “We had kids in making trebuchets,” he says. “They had a design, tested it out, figured out what worked and what didn’t, and then tried again. They kept learning from their failures and gaining confidence.” Other recent groups spent time constructing stomp rocket and underwater robots and others learned how to fly drones and get help with some coding challenges.
Along with free play and tinkering, Eureka! Palouse offers a variety of structured programming for kids throughout the year including Minecraft Club, Coding Club, and LEGO build competitions. Right now the summer camps are in full swing with camps open to children in grades 1-12. A wide variety of STEM topics such as robotics, computing, and engineering are covered. For Idaho residents who qualify, a number of camp scholarships are available, making STEM summer camp accessible to all.♦