All Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., including the National Zoo, and in New York City continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. We are not announcing a re-opening date at this time and will provide updates on a regular and as-needed basis.
What is Spark!Lab?
Draper Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention workspace where kids and families engage in the process of invention while exploring history, science, engineering, and art. Kids and parents can participate in a variety of activities that illustrate the invention process and allow them to practice 21st century skills, like collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking. This learning space is made possible by The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., with additional support from the Ford Motor Company Fund and Chevron.
Where is Spark!Lab?
Draper Spark!Lab is located on 1 West of the National Museum of American History on the National Mall. Floor plans of the museum can be found here.
What are Spark!Lab’s hours?
We are open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We are closed on Tuesdays and on December 25.
Who should visit Spark!Lab?
Visitors of all ages are invited to visit Draper Spark!Lab. Activities in the room have been designed for children ages 6-12, though younger and older visitors can also enjoy the wide range of hands-on opportunities.
Do you offer school programs in Spark!Lab?
We do not offer scheduled school programs in Draper Spark!Lab, although you are invited to visit with your group. For more information about planning your group visit, please refer to the Visiting with Groups page or contact us at SparkLab@si.edu.
Do you offer birthday parties in Spark!Lab?
We do not offer birthday party programs in Draper Spark!Lab, although you are welcome to visit with a party. Your group will be admitted on a space-available basis. Please note, outside food for your party may not be brought into the Museum.
Can I leave my children in Spark!Lab while I explore the rest of the Museum?
Children under the age of 12 must have an adult with them in Draper Spark!Lab.
What is the maximum capacity in Spark!Lab?
Draper Spark!Lab can accommodate up to 65 people (children and adults) at one time. The capacity is set according to Smithsonian life safety standards.
Can I volunteer in Spark!Lab?
Yes! Draper Spark!Lab relies on volunteers to stay open and running smoothly. Please e-mail us at SparkLab@si.edu for more information about how you can become a volunteer.
How can I get a Spark!Lab in my community?
The current Spark!Lab locations outside of Washington, DC, include
We are actively seeking partner institutions to join the Spark!Lab National Network to expand our efforts to encourage inventive creativity in kids. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Nyssa Buning, Spark!Lab National Network Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who (or what) is Draper?
Charles Stark “Doc” Draper (1901-1987) was an inventor and an engineer. His love of flying sparked a lifelong interest in improving the accuracy of instrumentation to navigate aircraft and other vehicles and systems. He applied instruments for measuring movement to aeronautics. Gyroscopes and accelerometers used to detect changes in direction and speed, he found, could help pilots understand their position and make corrections to the flight path when needed.
For NASA’s Project Apollo moon program, Doc Draper and his laboratory developed the guidance system and computer for the Apollo spacecraft. Today, Draper Laboratory continues to solve challenging problems in national security, space, energy, and biomedical engineering.
To recognize inventors whose work, like Doc Draper’s, has changed our everyday lives, the National Academy of Engineering established The Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering in 1988. Endowed by Draper Laboratory, the prize is the top honor in the field of engineering.
The Draper Spark!Lab invites everyone—especially children—to join in the spirit of exploration that Doc Draper and the Draper Prize represent.
Have a question that isn't answered here?
Email us at SparkLab@si.edu.