In Spark!Lab, inventiveness is as different as each inventor who walks through the door. A lot of visitors dive right into materials, PVC pipes, cardboard, magnetic connectors and 3D-printed pieces. They take inspiration—from questions on signs, from the people next to them, from what they’ve learned in their visit that day, and from their personal experiences—to prototype a solution to an invention challenge.
Some visitors observe others, noting their creativity, their frustrations, and that gleam in their eye when they exclaim, “Oh! I have an idea….” Still others dive headfirst into the stories of invention: looking at objects around the room as inventions that answered a need, reading the stories of inventors past and present, and researching the tools and methods they could use in their inventions.
When Spark!Lab opened at the Punggol Regional Library in Singapore on January 30, 2023, it became an innovative space, practicing the same spirit of trying new things that visitors do. Joining a network of ten sites in history museums, children’s museums, and science centers across the United States, Singapore’s Spark!Lab is based in a library in the growing neighborhood of Punggol.
Focused on children and seniors and designed with accessibility in mind, the Punggol Regional Library invites visitors to explore the process of invention in a way that is truly innovative. Spark!Lab integrates an invitation for creative problem-solving in amongst all the stories, resources, knowledge, and inspiration that the library offers.
Books surround children and families as they invent. Fictional stories of inventors, inventions, and creative problem-solvers inspire readers with imaginative curiosity. Biographies of inventors answer questions of how people solved problems in the past and what drove them to invent. Skill-building resource books abound, for those who want to take their knowledge and inventions further.
As Spark!Lab opened, librarians, staff, and volunteers embraced the inventive spirit, alongside visitors. One librarian shared the story of musician Jun Matsumoto, who invented ways for the audience to interact with the band and each other during concerts. The story highlighted Spark!Lab’s messages that everyone is inventive, that inventions take forms beyond what’s expected, and that empathy often drives inventors.
In training, future Spark!Lab facilitators planned to add their own changes to invention challenges, to make them relevant to library visitors. They worked to plan activities to address library initiatives like sustainability, and challenges facing Singapore’s future, such as infrastructure and community access in urban planning. And, of course, in a library, they discussed ways of helping visitors draw connections between inventiveness and story: What would your favorite character invent to make life easier or better?
When Spark!Lab opened, inventiveness flourished in perseverance and curiosity. Moving away from instructions, visitors used their creativity to consider the open-ended invention challenges. I heard from adults with children, “I didn’t know they knew that! I don’t even know how to do that!,” and, “We’ll have to go find out more information so you can improve on your invention next time.”
Our goal, as educators and historians in the Spark!Lab Network, is to continue to innovate. Seeing Spark!Lab in Singapore come alive with shouts of joy, groans of frustration, and conversation with friends new and old, truly illustrates that inventive spirit.
Punggol Regional Library