Visiting Spark!Lab in Reno

The Spark!Lab team recently traveled to Reno to visit our National Network partners at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum. We had a great time, learned a lot, and were impressed with the exciting projects staff members are working on. Here’s a little bit more about our adventure!

Touring the workshop.

The Spark!Lab team touring the workshop at The Discovery — we’re jealous of their tools!

Conversational Learning

Part of the goal of this visit was to be able to support our partners through further training. This included modeling behavior on Spark!Lab facilitation techniques, providing tips for success and sharing our experience. But we also wanted to do a lot of listening and so had some great conversations on the challenges and successes they’ve had. We really appreciate the perspectives people brought to the table, and are excited to move forward to make our partnership stronger.

Meeting with Discovery staff

Discussing Spark!Lab with The Discovery staff

Reno is Awesome

I don’t care what anyone says—I love Reno. I’ve travelled a lot, and I always know when I’ve found a true gem. Reno is one of those places. You can walk down the street and visit a world class museum, drop into a truly strange casino, take a fresh breath of air on the river walk, or hover over a cup of killer locally-roasted coffee. I’m really excited by the future of our Spark!Lab here, because I know Reno is a place where interesting ideas flourish.

Hub Coffee Roasters coffee shop

Drinking excellent coffee at local sensation Hub Coffee Roasters.

Invention is Present in Reno

Over a conversation with one of The Discovery’s staff, we found out that copper-riveted Levi’s jeans were invented in Reno. And that Reno is a major staging point for Burning Man, the annual inventive festival that is pretty hard to describe. It’s a place where a mundane invention—the neon light—has been lifted up as an art form and is being hailed as an important piece of Reno history.



Stay tuned for more exciting updates from our partnership in Reno and beyond!

Igniting a Spark in the high desert of Nevada—sounds dangerous, right?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Sarah Gobbs-Hill, an Education Program Coordinator at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno, Nevada. A member of our Spark!Lab National Network, The Discovery has been home to the first Spark!Lab off the National Mall for just over a year.

Here in Reno, Nevada we like to do things a little different. So when a group of people decided to bring a discovery museum to the downtown area just south of the casinos, critics were a bit skeptical. “Who’s going to bring their family down there?” they said. But after seven years of fundraising, planning and construction, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum (The Discovery) was born. The Discovery boasts 26,000 square feet of gallery space including a two-story climbing structure, a glass wall for the ephemeral painting made by fingers, an 85 foot-long river, and a lab for sparking the innovation held within the minds of those living in, and visiting, Northern Nevada.

The Spark!Lab Smithsonian at The Discovery has had an estimated 115,000 visitors in the first year, which is a lot for a city of just under a quarter million residents. In the museum’s first year, 10,000 students visited Spark!Lab as part of a school fieldtrip; for those interested teachers we created a specific fieldtrip class focused on collaboration and the principles of invention. Children and parents have shrieked with delight at the most shocking of our exhibits in Spark!Lab—Ben Franklin is a popular person in our space. We have added circuitry dough to our collection of activities, which allows us to create electric sculptures. We have invited our visitors to invent or redesign shoes, housing, transportation, and toys. A few of the best inventions by visitors so far have been a fan extravaganza (15 fans running off of snap circuits!); bionic biology (a robotic horse game that can be used to teach about anatomy); and a  toy-suck-a-rooni (a vacuum cleaner that sucks up toys without damaging them to leave a clean room). We never cease to be amazed by the creativity of the members of our community.

As with all new organizations we are learning the best way to support and work with our community. With the Spark!Lab at The Discovery, we aim to support the creative minds living here who are pushing the boundaries and creating a different vision for our community. We have big plans for The Discovery’s Spark!Lab moving forward and we believe, by working with our community and providing experiences that make people say, ”what will they think of next?,” we can not only spark their interest in innovation, but ignite the fire that will lead to “Reno-vation” and contribute to continued changes in the cultural landscape here in Northern Nevada.