Smithsonian Spark!Lab Now Open At Springfield Science Museum

Smithsonian Spark!Lab Now Open at Springfield Science Museum

Springfield Museums’ Smithsonian Affiliate Partnership renewed thanks to MassMutual Foundation.

SMITHSONIAN SPARK!LAB OPENING EVENTS
Friday, January 17: 11 am: OPENING CEREMONY: Astronomy Hall, Science Museum: Including Smithsonian Affiliate & MassMutual Foundation Announcement
Friday, January 17, 12:15 pm: SMITHSONIAN LECTURE on Innovation in the Connecticut River Valley
Saturday, January 18, 10 am to 5 pm: SPARK YOUR IMAGINATION FAMILY FUN DAY

The MassMutual Foundation is very excited to play a role in bringing Spark!Lab to our city through our support of the Springfield Museums to help meet the needs of the community through its transformation as a regional hub of STEM education. The Spark!Lab invention space enables visitors of all ages to engage in STEM-based education, which is critical to developing 21st century skills for the workplace. The opening celebration of the Spark!Lab symbolizes the fruits of our partnership with like-minded organizations that share our vision for building thriving communities.Dennis Duquette, President, MassMutual Foundation

Spark!Lab is integral to the Museums’ continuing success as a vital center for informal education through immersive, hands-on experiences that make learning interactive and fun.—Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums

Spark!Lab activities help us understand that invention is a process, rather than a single ‘Aha!’ moment.—Larissa Murray, Director of Education for the Springfield Museums

The Springfield Museums announce the launch of Spark!Lab, an innovation maker space developed by the Smithsonian. One of nine Spark!Labs in the nation, and the only one northeast of Washington, DC, this hands-on activity center provides a space for everyone to be inventive!

Opening ceremonies begin 11 am, Friday, January 17, in Astronomy Hall at the Springfield Science Museum. Tricia Edwards, Deputy Director, Smithsonian Affiliations; Sherriff Balogun, Chief of Staff, Enterprise Technology and Experience, MassMutual; and Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums, will join Mayor Domenic Sarno, legislators, Museums Trustees and Staff to officially open Spark!Lab. MassMutual Foundation, the Springfield Museums’ long-time season sponsor, will announce continued funding of the Springfield Museums Smithsonian Affiliate Partnership at this ceremony.

“The MassMutual Foundation is very excited to play a role in bringing Spark!Lab to our city through our support of the Springfield Museums to help meet the needs of the community through its transformation as a regional hub of STEM education,” said Dennis Duquette, President, MassMutual Foundation. “The Spark!Lab invention space enables visitors of all ages to engage in STEM-based education, which is critical to developing 21st century skills for the workplace. The opening celebration of the Spark!Lab symbolizes the fruits of our partnership with like-minded organizations that share our vision for building thriving communities.”

The celebration continues with a lecture on innovation Friday at 12:15pm and a Family Fun Day focused on electricity Saturday from 10am-5pm. (Please see full descriptions below.)

MORE ABOUT THE SMITHSONIAN AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIP

In 2016 the Springfield Museums became an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian is recognized as one of the world’s foremost museum and research institutions, with nineteen museums and over two hundred affiliates spread across the U.S. and its territories.

In identifying possible candidates for affiliation, the Smithsonian seeks out organizations that share a common mission, a commitment to education and public service, and have the capability of bringing Smithsonian artifacts, exhibits, and programs to their venues. Candidates are subject to a rigorous application process involving all aspects of their organization, from their leadership and financial structure to a review of their collections management and programming protocols.

Those selected to be Affiliates enjoy a range of benefits, from facilitated object and exhibit loans and discounted Smithsonian memberships for their patrons to custom-developed education, performing arts, and public programs.

The Springfield Museums value their Affiliate status, which has been made possible through the generous support of the MassMutual Foundation, especially because it allows the Museums to share Smithsonian treasures like Spark!Lab.

MORE ABOUT SPARK!LAB

Spark!Lab is a dynamic learning space where children, families, and groups can create, innovate, collaborate, problem-solve, and invent. Through hands-on activities, they learn about the invention process, inventors and inventions in American history, and innovations that are changing our world today. Most importantly, they are empowered to create their own inventions and to solve problems in their own unique ways.

Spark!Lab offers a new approach to hands-on making and learning. Visitors don’t follow step-by-step instructions or work to create a specific product. Instead, they identify problems and challenges, develop solutions, and put their own ideas into action—all while building important 21st century skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability. There are no wrong answers and no single solutions.

“Spark!Lab activities help us understand that invention is a process, rather than a single ‘Aha!’ moment,” said Larissa Murray, Director of Education for the Springfield Museums. “By engaging in these activities, everyone can be inventive. Everyone can work and create through the steps that can lead to a finished product.”

The activities in Spark!Lab are centered on key steps in the invention process. The steps—broken down into “It Phrases”—are not necessarily linear, but Spark!Lab activities allow visitors to experience all of them:

  • Identify a problem or need (Think It)
  • Conduct Research (Explore It)
  • Make sketches (Sketch It)
  • Build prototypes (Create It)
  • Test the invention (Try It)
  • Refine the invention (Tweak It)
  • Market the invention (Sell It)

Originally opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2008, Spark!Lab is a flagship educational initiative of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. The Spark!Lab National Network has made it possible for other institutions to house the unique innovation space. The Springfield Museums’ Spark!Lab is one of nine innovation spaces in the Nation, and it is the only Spark!Lab northeast of Washington, DC.

As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the Springfield Museums’ jumped at the opportunity to open this successful science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning space. Thanks to the support of many individual donors and corporate and institutional sponsorships, the Springfield Museums were able to bring Spark!Lab to the Science Museum.

Spark!Lab is integral to the Museums’ continuing success as a vital center for informal education through immersive, hands-on experiences that make learning interactive and fun,” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums.

“Because our world-class museum system includes art, science, history, literature, and all things Seuss,” Murray said, “We are able to integrate a rich, creative mixture together with STEM learning.”

ABOUT THE INNOVATION LECTURE

Three Centuries of Innovation in the Connecticut River Valley

Friday, January 17, 12:15pm–1:15pm

Eric S. Hintz, PhD, a historian with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will present the lecture Three Centuries of Innovation in the Connecticut River Valley.

The Connecticut River Valley has long been—and remains—one of the nation’s most important places of innovation, commerce, and creativity. The Connecticut River Valley first supported agriculture and trade among Native Americans and European settlers. Protecting that trade and the lives of industrial workers gave rise to MassMutual, Aetna, and other firms in a burgeoning insurance industry. Meanwhile, the federal Springfield Armory, and private arms makers such as Samuel Colt, Horace Smith, and Daniel Wesson, perfected the techniques of interchangeable parts manufacturing and helped establish the Springfield-Hartford corridor as one of the birthplaces of American manufacturing. During the 19th and 20th centuries, all kinds of products—including firearms, sewing machines, bicycles, automobiles, machine tools, typewriters, aircraft engines, and helicopters—were invented and manufactured in this hotbed of “Yankee ingenuity.” The Valley has also supported the work of writers and creative artists, such as Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss, and inspired new forms of recreation, from Dr. James Naismith’s game of basketball, to Milton Bradley’s “Game of Life.” Since World War II, the Valley has struggled with the effects of deindustrialization. Nevertheless, civic leaders have worked to revitalize the region by drawing on the valley’s long heritage of innovation.

Free with museum admission!

ABOUT FAMILY FUN DAY 

Spark Your Imagination

January 18, 10am–5pm

Experience the latest addition to the Science Museum–the hands-on invention space Spark!Lab, developed by the Smithsonian–and take part in a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities. Free with museum admission!

Spark!Lab, 10:30am-4pm
Explore this new, dynamic learning space where children, families, and groups create, innovate, collaborate, problem-solve, and invent.

Life Saver Lightning, 11am-3pm
Can you make a spearmint lifesaver create sparks by chomping on it? What is triboluminescence and why does this work? Bite into a mint of your own and learn how this produces electricity you can see.

Meet an Electrical Engineer, 11am-3pm
Research and development professional Michelle George, M. Eng., will demonstrate how Arduinos (an open-source electronics platform) and breadboards (a construction base for prototyping electronics) can be used, as well as explaining how different electrical parts work together. Examples may include transistors, conductors, resistors, and more!

Exploring the Universe: Static Electricity, 11am-3pm
Build an electroscope—a simplified version of one of the tools scientists use to study the invisible forces on Earth and in space. Learn how static electricity works, how scientists can use it to study space, and how it sometimes presents challenges to tools and spacecraft.

Electricity Demonstrations, Noon & 2 pm
What’s the difference between static and current electricity? How can humans see and use different types of electricity? Come to this demonstration that will include an Energy Stick everyone lights up together, and a Van de Graff generator!

ABOUT THE SCIENCE MUSEUM

The Springfield Science Museum has inspired curiosity in people of all ages for more than a century. Over that time, the museum has changed in order to meet the needs of its audiences, incorporating new technologies alongside Victorian curiosities to widen the worlds of all who visit. “This evolution has been both natural and necessary—and thanks to the support of many individual donors, grants, and corporate and institutional sponsorships, we are moving closer to our goals of a museum-wide revitalization,” said Heather Cahill, Director of Development.

In order to embrace immersive, hands-on exploration of science, technology, engineering, and math—STEM learning—the Springfield Science Museum is adding new permanent exhibits. These additions include the Smithsonian Spark!Lab and a reproduction of the International Space Station. Both feature hands-on activities that engage visitors in experiential learning.

The Smithsonian Spark!Lab, which will have its official launch January 17, is a hands-on workspace where visitors engage in innovation and invention. In this vibrant, well-stocked working area, visitors are empowered to solve problems in their own unique ways and build their ideas into reality with devices of their own invention.

The International Space Station exhibit, which is planned for a spring opening, will feature many opportunities for hands-on activity, including some that simulate experiments done on board the orbiting space station. “For instance, we’ll install a robotic arm that visitors will program to manipulate a selection of different objects,” said Mike Kerr, Curator of Astronomy for the Springfield Museums. “And we’ll have stations where visitors can explore the challenges of living in the low-gravity environment of space—like finding innovative ways to sleep and use the toilet. Look for some pretty cool selfie ops here!” Kerr said. Plans are also underway for a video display of Earth as seen from the space station, beginning with prerecorded footage but ultimately, it is hoped, with live video directly from orbit.

The Science Museum upgrades will include improvements to the Planetarium, Habitat Hall, Dinosaur Hall, the Changing Exhibition gallery, and the Live Animal Center. The campaign also includes upgrades to lighting, bathrooms, making all spaces accessible for all visitors, and improving wayfinding for a better visitor’s experience.

The improvements in the Science Museum are integral to a sweeping museum-wide revitalization of our encyclopedic collections and historic displays to emphasize immersive, hands-on experiences that make learning interactive and fun,” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums.

Spark!Lab Project Supporters

Berkshire Bank Logo      Massachusetts Cultural Council Logo
Massachusetts Cultural Council
Beveridge Family Foundation
Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts
Berkshire Bank Foundation
Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
William Kelliher
Martin Zinn
The Hologic Charitable Fund
Noonan Energy Corporation
Eversource Energy
and the many Friends of the Science Museum

Originally opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2008, Spark!Lab is a flagship educational initiative of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian affiliation made possible through the generous support of the MassMutual Foundation.
Smithsonian Affiliate    MassMutual Foundation