Nyssa Buning began volunteering in Draper Spark!Lab in the fall of 2015, and she joined our staff as a Facilitator the following year. Now, as a Lead Facilitator, she works with me to evaluate the effectiveness of the exhibition’s activities in achieving the Lemelson Center’s educational objectives. We also apply frequent tweaks to many parts of the exhibition, making visitors’ experiences in Spark!Lab as welcoming and worthwhile as possible.
Throughout our time working together, Nyssa has been a realistically prescient problem solver and a terrifically supportive colleague. Taking time from her many responsibilities, she answered the following interview questions.
Name: Nyssa Buning
Title: Lead Facilitator
Part of S!L since: Fall 2015
Favorite thing about S!L: Visitors’ creativity
Favorite invention in S!L: The back wall objects
What’s your current job title, and what are the responsibilities?
I’m a Lead Facilitator. I spend some of my time working with visitors on their inventions, some of my time looking at how people are using the activities and what they’re discovering, and some time working on ways to make the Spark!Lab experience even more amazing!
What’s your favorite thing about Spark!Lab? Why?
Seeing people use the materials in totally unexpected ways in their inventions always reminds me why Spark!Lab is here. Most of us look at something and think, “Oh, this looks like a…” or “I could totally make this into a…” Sometimes, someone throws all those connections to known inventions out the window and solves the problem in an absolutely new way, and you start to see how inventors think about what could be instead of what already exists.
If you had to explain Spark!Lab in four words, which would you select? Why would you use those words?
Spark!Lab is all about trial and error! It’s a skill that I think a lot of people practice in a lot of different ways in their lives. You edit papers or redo math problems in school. In the work world, projects go through a lot of levels of collaboration before they’re done. Video games are a great example of trial and error: When something doesn’t work, you can restart the level and try again, incrementally building on your successes. But it’s not something that many people practice with physical objects very often. I think it’s surprising to a lot of people how much more frustrating it is when it’s an object and when there’s a concrete goal they’ve set for themselves!
What’s your favorite invention in Spark!Lab? Why?
Our back wall has objects that a lot of people connect to. They are more recent inventions and innovations like digital cameras, early e-readers, and handheld vacuum cleaners. It’s fun to see adults reminisce about objects from their childhood, tell their kids or grandkids about them, and then begin the conversation about what inventions that child has seen that might evolve into other forms in the coming decades.
What’s one thing you think people should know before visiting Spark!Lab?
Adults, you’re inventors, too! Spark!Lab is a great place for everyone to learn and invent. So, especially if you’ve got young inventors with you, take the time to sit down with them and figure out an activity together. Question assumptions, ask why they draw certain conclusions, and embrace the fact that you may not have all the answers here! Figuring things out together can be a really exciting challenge for both of you.