December Youth Highlight: Minh & Thu

Introduction to Spark
Minh and Thu bring so much creative energy to Spark programming. The twin sisters joined the after-school Invention Club at Spark on 7th in the fall of 2021, learning various machines and workflows and expanding their STEM skills.

STEM Involvement
At MESA Day, the end-of-year statewide STEM competition held at Portland State University, Minh and Thu’s catapult design took second place in the main design challenge. They then participated in Invention Lab’s summer 2022 cohort, tackling user-centered design around the theme of wearable technology. Minh, Thu, and their teammate Joci integrated skills in programming microcontrollers with sewing and laser cutting to invent Safety Stuffies, keychain-sized stuffed figures that held a sensor with a panic button.

The Safety Stuffies, with their custom one-of-a-kind designs, were an instant draw at the closing showcase, and the team was invited to pilot a Youth Business Incubator program to develop their product further. The team attended online classes on Essentials of Entrepreneurship with Professor Juan Barraza from Portland State University and learned to budget and market their product, which pivoted to a portable social-emotional stuffy for young people.

Current Involvement
As current seniors at Willamette High School, Minh and Thu remain dedicated participants in Spark programming, attending Invention Club, recruiting other youth, providing classmates rides to Spark on 7th, and volunteering their time with our annual Winter Coat Project, repairing Columbia Sportswear as a resource for unhoused youth. We have loved watching Minh and Thu create at Spark and are excited to see what their senior year will bring.

“Spark will always leave a big impact on me, as it has helped me build confidence and discover new opportunities. It has especially allowed me to utilize and grow my skills.” – Thu