Educational materials :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center
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Educational Materials

Lemelson Center educators have developed resources for teachers, parents, and students who want to explore the exciting world of invention. These materials are provided free of charge to educators in the classroom and the home.
Above: A student explores the science of colors. Smithsonian photo by Rick Vargas.
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Spark!Lab At-Home Activity Sheet

Working with your family or a group of friends, find an invention you would like to improve. Brainstorm ways you could reinvent the object and solve the problem in a better, more effective, or easier way. Record your ideas on this sheet. Take a picture or make a video of yourself (or, better yet, your group) with the original invention and your description of how you would make it better. With the help of a parent, teacher, or other adult, send your photo or video to us:

Everyone who submits a photo or video will receive a Spark!Lab patent!

Fresh ideas from recycled stuff

Take a look at your recycling bin. With some tape, scissors, and markers, you can create cool inventions from those cereal boxes, water bottles, and paper towel rolls!

Invent a new game

Use pieces from a game you already have or start from scratch. Once you have all the rules figured out, play it with your family and friends.

How does it work?

Do you have an old alarm clock, telephone, radio, or calculator that no longer works? With an adult's help, take it apart! (Be sure that it's not plugged in and that any batteries are removed before you begin.) This "de-engineering" can teach you a lot about how things are put together and how they work.

What else can it do?

Take an everyday object, like a paperclip, and think about how it's used. Then try to think of other things you could do with it. This is something that inventors do all the time!

Make a light bulb

Learn about Thomas Edison and his inventions and make your own light bulb.

Build a “buckyball”

Learn about Nobel Laureate Sir Harold Kroto and his discovery of a new form of the element carbon that he named "buckminsterfullerenes" (after R. Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes they resemble).

Build your own "buckyball" (PDF document. File size: 195K. Download time: less than 1 min. @ 56K).

Investigate solar energy

Learn about Subhendu Guha and his inventions in harnessing solar energy and try these experiments with solar shingles:

Build your own solar shingle powered invention.
Does air temperature affect the amount of energy the flexible solar shingle produces?
How long will a battery hold its charge?
How does a photovoltaic panel work?
How long does it take to recharge a battery?

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