The Lakewood Computer Clubhouse, located at Lochburn Middle School, is a program for those interested in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Stella Kemper, the Makerspace and STEM Specialist, explains that the clubhouse is a safe place for students to explore their own interests with adult mentors to guide and offer support along the way.
The clubhouse is part of a large worldwide clubhouse network that creates STEM centers for youth ages 10 to 18.
Most clubhouses are centers located away from schools and are open to the community. The lakewood clubhouse located at Lochburn Middle School is the only clubhouse in the entire network actually located at a school.
The clubhouse partners with Pierce College, the City of Lakewood and the Clover Park School District. The district gives the clubhouse the space and the transportation for students to go home. The city of Lakewood gives a human services grant. Pierce plays an administrative role and provides much of the equipment.
These partnerships help sustain the clubhouse. With the price of technology and the frequent need for improvements, grants are needed to keep the clubhouse running.
Best Buy also has a partnership with the clubhouse network. Clubhouses being built are currently Best Buy team tech centers, forging a direct partnership.
Best Buy opens an annual grant cycle where groups or organizations can apply for up to 10,000 dollars a year, intended for programs in low-income communities that support technology and industry growth in teens.
Kemper explains that plans are being made to meet with the IT department at Pierce to decide what the grant money should be spent on.
Most of the items that students use at the Clubhouse have been donated from Pierce College. Any other items are donated from the community.
Due to the lack of funding to buy new technology, the Best Buy is planned to buy more updated supplies and technology.
The clubhouse provides different workstations, each designed for a different type of interest including the computers, a 3d printer, a small workshop, an arts and crafts table and a film production room.
Kemper said that there are usually 15 students in the clubhouse per day and many students come to the clubhouse every day. Kemper believes it is too small of a space to house more than 15 students comfortably. The space used by the clubhouse is a shared room with the guidance counselors.
Kemper noted that the clubhouse being located at a middle school deters students who aren’t Lochburn Middle School students from coming to the clubhouse. Kemper believes that the clubhouse’s school location is a benefit for the students at Lochburn, but not for the rest of the community.
She adds that even though the clubhouse is for the community to use, the location of the clubhouse is not realistic to advertise and invite people to.
The clubhouse is not limited to the Lochburn Middle School location, but also includes the clubhouse at the Young Men’s Christian Association in Lakewood. The YMCA space is smaller than the room at Lochburn and is not used very often because people do not realize that it is open for public use without a YMCA membership.
There are many opportunities for students that take part in the Lakewood Computer Clubhouse. Kemper explained that recently they receive donated tickets, rode the city bus and took a few kids down to Geek Girl Con. The group aren’t able to go on trips often because of funding and students have expressed their hopes to go on more trips with the grant money.
Tiana, a 12-year-old who has attended the clubhouse for one year, expressed that her favorite part of the clubhouse is the freedom she has while there.
Kemper’s hope is that the clubhouse helps students prepare for their future and get inspired to create more projects that could potentially have an impact on the community.
Kemper explains that middle school allows students to go from being told what to do to learning from their peers and interactions.
Some students don’t finish the projects they start or always bounce from one project to another, but that that’s not the point. Kemper believes that what the students all learn from each other and the memories they make spending time with their friends is what’s going to make a lasting impact on them.
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