Last year was a big one for Spark!Lab. In May, we launched a pilot project in Gurgaon, India, and in September, traveled to Ukraine to continue working on Spark!Lab-related ideas with our colleagues at Art Arsenal.
Also in September, Spark!Lab Reno, the inaugural member of the Spark!Lab National Network, celebrated its third anniversary, and continued to inspire its visitors to explore, create, and invent. Since opening in 2011, they've welcomed more than 350,000 visitors to Spark!Lab!
We were also thrilled to add two new members to the Spark!Lab National Network. In June, Science City in Kansas City, MO opened its space, and in October, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA came on board.
We traveled to conferences and meetings around the country to share our work and to lead conversations about how museums, teachers, parents, and others can foster inventive thinking in young people.
This year, I'm looking forward to building on our 2014 accomplishments and continuing to grow the Spark!Lab family. In March, Spark!Lab will open at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.
Perhaps most exciting for us, the new Spark!Lab will open at the National Museum of American History on July 1. Designed to have the look and feel of an inventor's workshop, the space will be bright, flexible, and fun, and will inspire our visitors to explore their inventive creativity through engaging hands-on activities. In our first few months, visitors will explore Things That Roll. Using objects from the NMAH collections as inspiration (think Julia Child's rolling pins, Tony Hawk's skateboard, and various wheeled robots), visitors will be challenged to invent their own rolling creations. Future activities will explore Things That Make Sound (Eddie Van Halen's guitar, a ship's bell, and tap shoes) and Things That Help Us See (cameras, binoculars, and magnifying glasses).
After being closed at NMAH for nearly four years, I am so looking forward to welcoming kids and families to Spark!lab and watching them create, collaborate, problem-solve, discover, and of course, invent!
In addition to our work in museums, we'll be presenting workshops at the SXSWEdu conference in Austin, TX in March, and at the Association of Children's Museums' annual Interactivity conference in May. Later in the year, we hope to add another member to the Spark!Lab National Network (stay tuned for location), and begin conducting research and evaluation on the impact of Spark!Lab—both in DC and around the country—to help further our understanding of how we can best encourage inventive creativity in young people.
As we celebrate the Lemelson Center's 20th anniversary this year, it seems appropriate also to be entering into a new phase for Spark!Lab. By the end of 2015 we will have a true network of Spark!Labs—anchored by the Spark!Lab in Washington, DC—and collectively serving nearly a million visitors a year. I can't wait to get started on this new chapter and to see where Spark!Lab takes us in 2015!