On Saturday October 8th, students, teachers, and community members gathered in the Willamina High School Cafeteria for the Innovate Willamina Make-a-thon. Their goal? To creatively solve problems with technology. Most of them had never done any sort of coding before, but equipped with laptops, circuit boards, and each other, they stepped up to the challenge.

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Students practice inputting code during the instructional period.

A representative from SparkFun gave a four hour instruction and then groups had time to create something with what they’d learned. By the end of the day they had not only learned how to build and program circuit boards, they learned how to use them to solve problems like temperature gauging, automatic lighting, and even automatic chicken tractors!

Students appreciated the opportunity to learn something new that they could use throughout their life, “This is all pretty knew to me, and I thought it was very fun and helpful. I think it would be useful for things I do in the future,” said Robert Nortness, a home school student. Adults who had little technological background were surprised how easily they picked it up, “You can do something and see it working, it’s really exciting,” said community member Shallay Booker.

A group of works on a mobile lunch delivery system.

A group of works on a mobile lunch delivery system.

The Make-a-thon was organized through a partnership between OnlineNW, SparkFun, and Innovate Oregon to give youth and adults the opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired. Dayton was the first community to host a make-a-thon and it was amazing  to see this experience replicated in Willamina. Innovate Willamina will take what they learned at the make-a-thon and apply it in school and community programs, utilizing the agile learning approach modeled after leading industry practices, focusing on more “doing”.

“We forgot how to make things…It’s programs like this that we need to stay up with the rest of the world. We need people with coding experience to understand what they’re making, what they’re designing. It’s very important to this nation.” – Rene Quinones, Sheridan City Council Member