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Teaching for the future.

Give people tools, and they get more creative.

That's the idea behind Gizmo, the nonprofit "makerspace" run by STCU members Marty and Barb Mueller in Coeur d'Alene. It's a playground for the curious, where children and adults can gather to tinker, explore, build, and learn using equipment like 3D printers, drill presses, and robotic arms.

Tucked into a block of storefronts on North 4th Street, Gizmo's exterior is painted orange, and you might see a couch on wheels - or a shark on wheels - glide by on the sidewalk. It's a fun place. But what goes on inside is serious business, too.

The nonprofit helps prepare people through art, design, and technology for the challenges of the future. Of course, as Barb says, there's no predicting how those challenges will affect today's learners later.

"The only alternative is to teach them to think," she says.

"Getting the wrong answer," Marty says, "frees you up to think about things in a much more creative way."

At Gizmo, people of all ages learn to solve problems and build on imagination. And Marty and Barb love to watch them connect the dots as they figure out how some piece of technology works or concepts come together.

Photo of Barbara and Marty Mueller

But here's another lesson Marty and Barb aim to convey: Failure pays. And they should know.

After spending years running their machine shop in North Idaho, specializing in large-format cameras, they set out on a project of their own: to make a lighter and simpler 3D camera.

And after close to a year of work, their initial design failed. So they tried again. And they built a camera that astronauts would use to film their lives on the International Space Station, as well as images of Earth from above.

Marty and Barb won an Academy Award for science and engineering.

"Getting the wrong answer," Marty says, "frees you up to think about things in a much more creative way."