News & Politics

Invention through Play – Free Innovation Festival

Now that the tourists are heading home and the summer heat is subsiding, plan to take the kids out for some fun and learning in the city. The Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are bringing the Innovation Festival to the National Museum of American History on September 26 and 27. Part science class, part field trip, kids of all ages can discover what happens when ideas become reality.

Set against the backdrop of the museum’s newly opened 45,000 square foot Innovation Wing, the free two-day festival will not only highlight inventors and invention, it will provide hands-on activities and the chance to learn how America’s patent and intellectual property systems work. The Innovation Festival is designed to let children’s imaginations soar as they discover their inner inventor and the central role that innovation plays in American history and today. The festival will animate the museum’s dozen exhibitions, learning spaces and program places with demonstrations, hands-on activities, and opportunities to meet inventors and discuss the invention process.

Attendees have the opportunity to meet Shubham Banerjee who, as a seventh-grader, used the LEGO MINDSTORM system to invent an inexpensive braille printer. Now he is a 13-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is attracting start-up funds for his invention. And Cameron Kruse, who used the same LEGO systems to invent a baseball “mudder,” a device that simulates the baseball-rubbing process required for professional baseball, will inspire kids with his belief in invention through play. NASA engineers will also be on hand to discuss how they helped develop a system for keeping water from freezing by installing it within down clothing. And kids can take a look at what goes into candy chemistry as Mars, Incorporated demonstrates its patented flavor technologies.

With many elementary and middle school curriculums emphasizing the process of invention, this fall’s Innovation Festival let’s kids experience it for themselves as they create, collaborate, explore and experiment. Attendees can chat with Zugara inventors who have developed augmented reality-based virtual dressing room technology then head over to the museum’s “Patrick F. Taylor Object Project.” In this learning space which focuses on “everyday things that changed everything,” visitors can try on costumes from the collection via a virtual dressing room. It makes for great family photos, with choices ranging from 1920s-era bathing suits to fashion from the 1970s. American universities are at the forefront of innovation and a number of schools will present their inventions, including Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Oklahoma who collaborated on a “Self-initiated Prone Progressive Crawler” which helps infants with developmental delays learn to independently explore their environments. Other participants, selected by a juried panel, include Kansas State University, the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Wiperfill, U. S. Department of Agriculture, C.G.I. Technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, NRG Insulated Block, Ford Global Technologies, and Solar Turbines, Incorporated.

The Innovation Wing, is home to the Draper Spark!Lab, the popular hands-on invention experience from the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, which is a 2,000-square-foot space with the look and feel of an inventor’s workspace. Designed especially for kids ages six to 12, Spark!Lab activities incorporate traditional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with art, history and creativity.

The Innovation Festival is Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the National Museum of American History located on Constitution Avenue N.W. between 12th and 14th streets. Admission is free. For more information about the Innovation Festival and a complete schedule visit: