Eureka! A sneak peek at Spark!Lab

By Dana Allen-Greil

You know that moment when an idea suddenly strikes and—BOOM—there’s a new invention ready to change the world? No? Well, the museum’s newest hands-on space just might give you a chance to experience it. Spark!Lab aims to show the real story behind an inventor’s work by giving you a chance to play games, try out science experiments, and become an inventor yourself. In the following video, Spark!Lab’s Steve Madewell gives a sneak peek into the new space and demonstrates some of the fun activities awaiting visitors when the museum reopens on November 21.

If you’re a sucker for experiments involving flames (like I am), you’ll be interested in a demonstration designed to explain some of the science behind the conservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. If you were working to conserve an object, a burn test on a small sample of fabric might help you determine whether the artifact you’re caring for is made of wool or cotton (apparently, they give off quite different scents whilst burning). If lightning is more your speed, you’ll get a kick out of Benjamin Franklin’s lightning bell. With a new area for children under 5, experiments with dry ice, and a light bulb that glows without being plugged in—there’s something eye-opening for everyone to experience and get your hands on. 

Dana Allen-Greil is the new media project manager at the National Museum of American History. She can be seen making faces at the burnt smells of cotton and wool in the aforementioned video.