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Staff Writer | December 24, 2021 1:00 AM

Fingers flew and brains ticked as teams of middle schoolers raced the clock, and each other, to get their projects finished.

Within just 40 minutes, students at Canfield Middle School built cantilevers, a bridge with only one contact point, using supplies like spoons, straws, popsicle sticks and tape.

“I think we all work together well," said Wyatt Hartzell, a seventh-grader.

Under the direction of four high school students and an adviser, around 25 kids meet weekly to learn about engineering at the STEM and Engineering Club started in fall by Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy senior Ryan Eaton.

“I’m really passionate about STEM and I’m really passionate about sharing stuff with people,” Eaton said. “I thought it would be really awesome if we could bring STEM and just a lot of really cool, methodical thinking techniques to younger students, and kind of develop that engineering mindset early.”

Eaton said the time limit helps students practice working under pressure. The 17-year-old developed a lot of the curriculum for the club, with high school volunteers helping brainstorm ideas for the next week's lesson.

“It’s actually a really great time and our turnout is huge and amazing," said James Hagman, a senior volunteer from Coeur d’Alene High School.

Hagman has been volunteering to help run STEM clubs for four years, and said he loves the experience. He said he’s thinking about being a teacher so he values the chance to practice leading a group.

Matt King, a design technology teacher at Canfield Middle School, oversees the program and said he’s been impressed with the high school volunteers.

“They’re excited to share their knowledge with the next generation and so it’s kind of neat to see them take leadership," King said.

King worked with Eaton over the summer to launch the club and said it was neat to see a variety of age levels learning and experimenting together.

“It has been such a joy to watch students explore, investigate and inquire about our various engineering projects,” King said.

Eaton said he enjoys working with the kids and learning to teach.

“I think that’s a very valuable skill no matter what you do,” Eaton said.

The Canfield STEM and Engineering Club is a corollary of Growing the STEM, a local nonprofit that organizes and supports math and science programs for students in Coeur d’Alene public schools, with an emphasis on developing youth leaders and encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue STEM education and activities.

“We’ve been getting a lot of really awesome kids who are really engaged and really excited to learn,” Eaton said. “It’s really, really positive.”


On left, Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy senior Ryan Eaton, creator of the STEM and Engineering Club started in fall at Canfield Middle School, checks in with a group of middle schoolers during the club meeting on Dec. 1. HANNAH NEFF/Press


Seventh grader Wyatt Hartzell checks on his team's cantilever, a bridge with only one contact point, to make sure it isn't touching the floor. The students used supplies like spoons, straws, popsicle sticks and tape to build their bridges at Canfield Middle School on Dec. 1. HANNAH NEFF/Press