Spark!Lab

Where museum visitors become inventors!

SparkLabLogo image

Spark!Lab activity

Spark!Lab opened at the National Museum of American History in 2008 and was one of its most popular attractions until it closed in 2012 in preparation for the renovation of the museum’s west wing. Spark!Lab reopened at the National Museum of American History in 2015.

In an effort to show that invention is more than just that “Aha!” moment, Spark!Lab provides visitors with opportunities to explore the invention process and their own inventiveness through a variety of interdisciplinary, hands-on activities. In an engaging and exciting environment, Spark!Lab demonstrates the central role that invention plays in American history.

Now, through Spark!Lab’s National Network established in 2011, a community of museum professionals dedicated to fostering inventive creativity brings this experience to families in their own neighborhoods. (Click here for Network contract details).

Three Smithsonian Affiliates have joined the Spark!Lab National Network and are celebrating innovation and invention in their own communities:

Science City at Union Station Kansas City (Kansas City, Missouri) Spark!Lab opened at Science City in August 2014.
“We are committed to providing year-round science fun and education to our guests. Spark!Lab has been an amazing addition to our programming – one that visitors will spend a great amount of time innovating and creating within. The positive interactions and hands-on fun had every day is something that we are extremely proud to witness. Sometimes it is hard to determine who is enjoying the space more, the guests or our staff! The Spark!Lab has already had a significant impact on our science center, and we cannot wait to see how it grows!”
–Christy Nitsche, Director of Programming, Kansas City’s Science Center, Science City

See how young people interact in the space in the video below.

The Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, Alaska) opened Spark!Lab in March 2015. “A spark of imagination and understanding what it means to invent can open up new opportunities and take a young person a long way toward success in education and career,” said Pamela Alexander, director of Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “When learning is fun, it can plant the seeds of exploration and discovery, and open a child’s eyes to the possibilities of what they can achieve.”

  • Read the press release here.
  • Press clipping from the opening event here.

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (Greenville, South Carolina) opened Spark!Lab in February 2017. “Spark!Lab will give children and their parents new ways to explore and discover, ultimately opening their eyes to the possibilities of what they can create and achieve through the process of invention,” said Nancy Halverson, president and CEO of TCMU. “We are incredibly grateful to the Smithsonian and the Lemelson Center for giving Upstate children the opportunity to explore the process of invention through an incredibly unique and special experience.”

SparkLab at The Children's Museum of the Upstate

Children enjoying the process of invention at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. Photo credit: TCMU.

For more information on bringing Spark!Lab to your neighborhood, contact your National Outreach Manager.

About the Lemelson Center

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation invites children between the ages of six and 12 to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment and invent. Activities for children and families incorporate traditional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with art, museum and creativity. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit http://invention.smithsonian.org.

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