After school program aims to build mentoring opportunities

LUTHER—Walking into the room, visitors see an array of gadgets strewn on tables and students and adults studiously constructing these pieces into a functioning form during a session of Tech Wizards, an after school program offered in Baldwin and Luther.

There is much more to the program than constructing models and other hands-on projects, according to Seth Hopkins, program coordinator for both sites.

Sponsored by the Michigan State University Extension 4-H program, Tech Wizards aims to establish mentoring relationships between adults and youth. Together, the adults and youth work on projects focusing on science, technology, engineering, art and math (S.T.E.A.M.)

Students also learn skills in robotics, video editing and rocket building.

“We are currently building a model submarine, ‘Sea Perch,’ said Hopkins, who demonstrated to the students how to get the right balance for the submarine to function in water.

Sixth-grader Damian Domingo, who attends the Tech Wizards program at the Newkirk Town Hall in Luther, really enjoys the hands-on learning.

“I like all the fun and creative things we do, working with gadgets, and the funny things,” Domingo said, referring to a tower students constructed and then knocked over.

Ten-year-old Tayah Miller, who also attends the Luther after-school program, enjoys the creative aspect.

For Hopkins, the program is about the joy of working with the kids so they can have fun and productive learning experiences. 

“I like the enthusiasm of the kids,” he said. “It is fun to sit down and work with them. The mentoring aspect of the program makes a difference. We get to work on pretty neat things. Earlier in the summer, we worked on model rockets.”

Domingo chimed in, “After this project, we will get to make puppets.”

“Tech Wizards operates throughout the school year at both Baldwin and Luther,” Hopkins said. We began last February and we are finishing up are first year. We are hoping to get more students to join us for the second year. We can really use more mentors. We are hoping for more to join us.”

The Tech Wizards program takes place after-school hours at the Baldwin Elementary School Library on Tuesdays, and from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Newkirk Town Hall in Luther.