Draper Spark!Lab is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Innovative thinking helps us shape the world around us. Draper Spark!Lab activities are designed around common themes that connect to the National Museum of American History collections and exhibitions. Themes are developed broadly to incorporate a wide range of collections and change every four months, ensuring that regular visitors have something new to explore. Visitors can also sketch and create their own inventions at our Hub space.
Activities for the PRODUCE theme explore how we apply our creativity to finding solutions to different challenges, environments, needs, and purposes, and to tweaking existing inventions for new uses.
Design a Food Label
Packaging says a lot about the food it holds. Words and images can provide information and inspire emotions. In the early 1900s, labels on crates of fruits and vegetables often depicted the produce as natural and fresh.
What image will you design for your food package? How will your label make people feel? Look for produce crate labels on display in Spark!Lab.
Invent a Way to Harvest Fruit
The fruits and vegetables you find in a grocery store come from plants on farms. Workers pack up the produce to ship to stores near and far. Harvesting large amounts of produce quickly can reduce the cost to customers who buy it.
Can you invent a way to harvest fruit from trees? Can you invent a way to harvest the most fruit in the shortest amount of time? Visit FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950–2000 to see a “lettuce hump” used to harvest lettuce during the 1960s.
Create an Assembly Line
Henry Ford created assembly lines to quickly produce large numbers of cars. This is called “mass production,” and it often makes the cost of goods go down, which makes them easier for consumers to afford.
How will you put parts together on your assembly line? What will you create to move items onto and off your assembly line? Visit America on the Move to see a Model T produced in the 1920s on Henry Ford’s Detroit, Michigan, assembly line.
Tweak a Solar Tree
We can produce energy in many ways. We can burn coal, use nuclear reactors, spin wind turbines, or collect light with solar panels. Inventors and designers can use thin, flexible solar panels to create artistic structures for collecting solar energy.
How will you build your solar tree, so that it can collect light and turn it into electricity? Can you tweak your design to produce even more power? Visit the website Solar on the Line to learn more about solar energy.
Produce Great Sounding Beats
Musicians and DJs often use electronic equipment to produce interesting musical beats. By adding loops, layered sounds, and sound samples, musicians can create and arrange an endless variety of rhythms.
What will your beats sound like? How will you wire the beat device to make it easier to create your rhythms? Visit American Music on 3 West to see Steve Aoki’s DJ equipment.
Design a Museum Exhibition
The exhibition next door, Places of Invention, will be replaced soon by an exhibiton about invention and sports. A team of curators, historians, and designers are currently planning the new exhibition. They are working to decide what it will look like, what activities and objects it will include, and how it will make people feel.
What will your exhibition on sports and invention look like? What will you put in your exhibition, and what will you leave out? How can your exhibition use sports to help people see themselves as being inventive? Visit Places of Invention to learn more about hot spots of invention and to think about what the gallery could look like as a different exhibition.
Craft a Quilt
Crafting is a personal and creative way to produce things. Quilting is one type of craft. People who quilt can produce interesting designs or use pictures to tell a story. Of course, quilting is also a way to produce practical blankets!
Will your quilt focus on a design, tell a story, or do both? How does your quilt reflect your ideas or interests? View the silk quilts on display in the Everyday Luxury exhibition on 2 West.
Produce a Rocket
Fifty years ago, a team of men and women sent humans to another world. These amazing inventors, engineers, and scientists designed and produced the Saturn V rocket. This giant, complex machine carried humans to the moon, where they landed and explored before coming safely back to Earth.
How will you design your rocket? How will your rocket make the most of the limited thrust used to launch it? Visit the National Air and Space Museum to see objects used by astronauts who landed on the moon.