Design Lab

Design Lab taps into people’s natural tendency to be inventive and resourceful in finding solutions to basic engineering and design challenges.

Design Lab consists of five visually and thematically distinct activity areas that evoke a sense of childlike playfulness and imagination. The activities encourage visitors to be creative while experimenting with structures, circuits, simple materials and more. 

Winter/Spring Hours

Monday – Friday, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday, 11:00 am – 5:30 pm
Visitors, please note that on weekdays, some portions of Design Lab are reserved for camp and school groups by advance reservation.

Activities in Backstage, Sandbox, Studio and Treehouse are free with NYSCI admission for general museum visitors. Workshops in Maker Space have small fees; check workshops for details. Camp and school groups can reserve Design Lab sessions for a fee by calling 718-699-0301 in advance of their visit.


Sandbox: Dowel constructions

Sandbox: Dowel constructions. Photo: Andrew Kelly.


Studio: Happy City circuit building. Photo: Andrew Kelly.

The Treehouse. Photo: Andrew Kelly.

Treehouse. Photo: Andrew Kelly.


See more photos of Design Lab here.

Design Lab activities use everyday materials to emphasize that creativity is not dependent on specialized tools or expert knowledge. Instead, the activities show how expertise is achieved through experimentation, critical thinking and collaboration.

From the beginning, teachers and educators have played an important role in the development of Design Lab’s activities and content. One of the goals of Design Lab is to ensure that school groups and teachers can transfer concepts related to design and engineering from NYSCI back into the classroom.

Design Lab’s five activity areas include:

  • Backstage, where visitors devise solutions to deliver the perfect performance. In the exhibition’s first summer season, visitors will make jointed shadow puppets.
  • Sandbox, where visitors build sturdy structures they can stand inside, such as this summer’s dowel construction activity, where museum-goers are challenged to build a large structure out of wooden dowels and rubber bands.
  • Studio, where visitors construct tabletop structures, illuminated and animated by LEDs, motors, and circuits.
  • Treehouse, a split-level area for experiments and activities requiring a vertical drop. Visitors use pulleys, zip lines and other items to create a method to move objects between the two levels.
  • Maker Space, which opened in 2012, shows visitors how to use tools that convert design ideas into prototypes.

Design Lab was designed and fabricated by SITU Studio. The activity areas are distinct in size, materials and degree of enclosure with structural elements purposely made visible to visitors, evoking the DIY sensibility at the core of Design Lab‘s activities.

“With Design Lab, we’re exploring a new form of engagement between a museum and its visitors. Science museums are known for hands-on exhibits and participatory programs, but with Design Lab, visitors are in the driver’s seat like never before. You can think, build, test and refine your ideas, putting creative design and engineering to work as you overcome obstacles, solve problems, and point the way to a better world.”– Margaret Honey, NYSCI President and CEO

“Our ambition for Design Lab was to create an environment that would celebrate NYSCI’s innovative work in science education and learning through interest-driven creative design processes. To achieve this goal, our challenge as designers was to develop a series of workshops flexible enough to support the myriad activities they will host today and in the future. SITU and NYSCI share the belief that the Maker Movement presents new ways of thinking about the intersection of design and science – this project presented a perfect opportunity to explore this theme together.” — Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, partner at SITU Studio.

Design Lab is made possible with generous support from Phyllis and Ivan Seidenberg, the Verizon Foundation, Office of Naval Research and the Xerox Foundation. The Verizon Foundation provided seed funding for Design Lab that supported the participation of teachers to contribute to and inform the exhibition.