Sparking Innovations, Showcasing Innovators

October 24th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

September/October 2012

Rapid innovations are continually impacting society and our daily lives. Science centers have an important role to play as a link between innovators and the public, a guide that helps communities navigate a constantly changing world, and a safe place for visitors to unleash their own creativity and imagination. In this issue, we look at innovation from multiple perspectives—from how science centers are fostering new innovators and highlighting innovation in their communities and beyond, to how they are applying innovative technology and new research to enhance learning within their walls.


Nurturing the Innovator’s Mindset, by Tim Ritchie
• Why Talk About Innovation in Science Museums?, by Erika Kiessner
Inspiring Visitors to Tinker, Create, and Innovate
• A Science Center’s Role in Innovation During Changing Times, by Kate Bennett, Debra A. Jacobson, and Calvin Uzelmeier
• Born in Israel: Showcasing Our Innovations, by Maya Halevy, Varda Gur Ben Shitrit, and Dea Brokman
• Augmented Hands-On Exhibits, by Karen Elinich
• How New Family Learning Research Can Inform Innovative Programming, by Heather Toomey Zimmerman

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Nurturing the Innovator’s Mindset

October 24th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

By Tim Ritchie
From Dimensions
September/October 2012

Everyone agrees that it will require an enormous commitment to innovation for humankind to survive (and thrive!) on our fragile planet. But to what must our communities, and our nations, commit in order to foster world-changing innovation? What roles can science centers play in nurturing innovators and encouraging innovation?

We think about these questions a great deal at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. We are located in the heart of Silicon Valley, so if anyone should be able to describe what it takes to nurture innovation, we should.

One of the Tech’s Board members challenged his associates at Bain & Company (a management consulting firm) to identify why innovation flourishes in Silicon Valley. The unpublished Bain report describes the habits and mindset of successful innovators and the ecosystem that nurtures innovation. This article focuses on the innovator’s mindset, because every science center can do a number of things to develop that mindset. I also briefly describe the ecosystem that innovators need in order to succeed. In some cases, science centers can play a role in nurturing that environment as well. (more…)

Inspiring Visitors to Tinker, Create, and Innovate

August 22nd, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions by Emily Schuster

This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Science center and museum professionals from around the world share ways that they are engaging visitors in hands-on innovation.

In July 2012, the Exploratorium launched its Global Tinkering Studio Initiative at the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program, an annual science festival in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Informed by 10 years of educational research and development, the Tinkering Studio invited visitors to build, hack, invent, and “think with their hands” while working on individual creations that explore the natural world. As part of the festival, the Exploratorium’s master tinkerers held professional development workshops to immerse local educators in the Exploratorium’s approach to tinkering as a way of learning.

At the Exploratorium’s new home on the San Francisco waterfront in 2013, an even more expanded Tinkering Studio will be at the heart of the museum, directly across from the Machine Shop where all the museum’s exhibits are made.

Linda Dackman, public information director, Exploratorium, San Francisco

Discovery to Innovation: Faster than My Mother Could Accept

August 22nd, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

My mother, in her advanced age, used to justify some unhealthy habits of food and drink by remarking (only half-jokingly), “If we wait long enough, the scientists will disprove themselves, and our vices will be virtues.” In this simple remark, she was reflecting the quandary of her era: respect and enthusiasm, tinged with some skepticism, about the breathtaking pace of scientific achievements.

We still hold our scientists in high regard for their intelligence, curiosity, and determination. But we demand better communication. After all, we may never hope to fully comprehend the science of crippling diseases or the Higgs boson, but we know that fear arises when open communication with our scientists is lost and trust is broken. Science centers and museums help communicate the relevance of science and the excitement of discovery.

Should exhibitions be the central focus of what science centers and museums do?

August 22nd, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, Viewpoints by Emily Schuster

This is an extended discussion of the question that appeared in the Viewpoints department of the September/October 2012 issue of Dimensions magazine.

The central focus for science centers is serving the communities in their region. Many of the science festivals popping up in the United States are led by museums, reflecting the responsibility that science centers have to reach out to audiences that do not normally attend exhibitions. Science festivals enable this by hosting events and programs in places where the people in their communities naturally live, work, and play.

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