The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has received a grant of $1.8 million from the National Science Foundation. The grant will support informal science education through the center’s “Game Changers” exhibition project.
“Game Changers,” a planned 3,500-square-foot exhibition at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) scheduled to open late 2022, will transform museum visitors into inventors who will create their own “game-changing” technologies for sports. The exhibition will feature four “motivation zones” that explore the interests, desires and impulses that drive inventors and athletes to create new innovations and inventions that change how we play sports. Objects from NMAH’s collection, thematic interactives and inventor stories will invite visitors to think about how the motivations to provide athletes with competitive advantages, to make sports more fun and accessible for all, to protect the health and safety of athletes, and to ensure fairness and accuracy in sports competition, translate into real world innovations.
“At first glance a sports-themed exhibition may not appear to relate to invention education,” said Arthur Daemmrich, director of the center. “But it is our intention that by using the universal experience of ‘sports’ as a lens to explore invention history, audiences will uncover their own creative, inventive identities. This grant allows us to bring years of inventive identity research to the public, and we look forward to embarking on this next step.”
Exhibition plans include an “inventive track” of activities throughout the exhibition where visitors can hone their skills as an innovator by doing and creating– from problem identification and initial sketching, to design, testing and prototyping; a website; and collaboration with Smithsonian Affiliate museums. The exhibition’s “End Zone” activities will encourage visitors to reflect upon their inventive experiences in the exhibition and crystalize their self-perception as inventive problem solvers and STEM participants. “Game Changers” represents a new model in exhibition design where content is co-created in a collaborative manner by the center, community partners and the public.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Lemelson Center continues to lead the study of invention and innovation at the Smithsonian. The center’s activities advance scholarship on the history of invention, share stories about inventors and their work and nurture creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation and located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit invention.si.edu. For more information on Spark!Lab, visit https://invention.si.edu/try/sparklab.
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