Last week, I was part of one of my favorite moments—welcoming a new Spark!Lab site to the network. The magic of Spark!Lab comes alive with the first rush of visitors—children (and adults!) who just can’t wait to be inventors.
The group at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, had been gathering for the thirty minutes or so on September 23, exploring the model trains running in the room next to Spark!Lab, getting to know each other, making observations about the trains, and peering excitedly into Spark!Lab. As one of the new Spark!Lab Ambassadors welcomed them into the room, they rushed in and the space came alive.
Things that, moments ago, had been craft supplies, toys, and 3D printed pieces, took on totally new qualities. A group worked together to use PVC pipes to invent a vehicle, deciding that three steering wheels was really an optimal number, so they each could drive when needed.
Other inventors tested materials in the vertical wind tunnel, watching how packing peanuts and construction paper performed before returning to carefully consider additions to their inventions, intent on achieving the perfect hover in the wind tunnel.
At Spark!Lab’s newest activity, created for the Morris Museum, two inventors worked diligently to invent an automaton that connects the museum’s Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata to invention. Visitors can explore the Guinness collection, asking themselves what materials were used in the creation of these objects, who might have enjoyed them, and what stories they tell about their inventors and their users. Later, in Spark!Lab, they consider the materials they will use to build their own automaton, for their own goals—perhaps to entertain a younger sibling, tell their favorite story, or simply to create a piece of kinetic art.
And throughout, Spark!Lab’s Ambassadors, wearing yellow aprons, asked these budding inventors questions. I had a chance to get to know the Morris Museum Spark!Lab Ambassadors and staff during their training, and the enthusiasm and expertise they bring to the space is unmatched. They make connections to classroom learning, to New Jersey history, and to the Morris Museum collections, all while asking visitors why they chose to use a red feather in their flying machine or who will use a car with three steering wheels?
In Spark!Lab, we believe that everyone is inventive. We all have the power to reshape our lives and communities to solve problems and make the world a better place. And nowhere do I see that more than on the first day of a new Spark!Lab. I know exciting things are in the future for inventive visitors to the Morris Museum. Welcome to the Spark!Lab Network!