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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 families work together on an engineering challenge, using everyday materials to design and test solutions to engineering problems using design thinking.
  • Sandbox, where families can explore simple machines by designing systems to harness kinetic and potential energy while developing group work and engineering skills.
  • Studio, where families work on design challenges, finding solutions to interesting and fun problems using materials you know and see everyday.
  • 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.