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Revving up an Engine for Innovation

June 18, 2015 ET

By Danny Haeg and Prinda Wanakule
The Tech Museum of Innovation

Where do ideas come from? How do they become reality?

Silicon Valley has a reputation for having all the answers, but even here it’s easy to gravitate toward like-minded people—to stay in your own, comfortable lane.

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California, strives to push against this idea and foster the seeds of innovation that make it such a special place. To that end, we have turned our focus to two special initiatives.

The first is Creative Collisions, a recurring evening series—founded with generous support from the Swanson Family—that cultivates and connects innovators and ideas in the Bay Area.

Creative Collisions attendees learn basic ballet moves.

Creative Collisions attendees learn basic ballet moves.

At this unique event, guests are invited to explore the intersection of two seemingly disparate domains. Our kickoff, Ballet + Wearables + You, featured user-friendly ballet lessons; booths and representatives from wearable-tech companies; and a “design sprint” during which guests dreamed up ways to incorporate wearable technology into ballet. These activities were for fun, but they also helped our partner, Ballet San Jose, think about what it means to be a ballet company in the tech capital of the world.

The ideas and the level of sophistication participants offered were remarkable, especially in such a short amount of time. But what was most compelling was their capacity for engagement and experimentation. Some ideas were ingenious. Some were outrageous. It was inspiring to watch them gracefully step (and dance) outside their comfort zones.

Much like we asked of these guests, The Tech itself strives to reach, grow, and stretch with a single goal in mind: to serve as a community resource for innovation. To us, that means providing resources—people, places, and pieces—that empower people to improve the world.

A Social Innovation Workshop participant builds a water quality testing device.

A Social Innovation Workshop participant builds a water quality testing device.

To that end, we offer a newly expanded Tech Studio, our signature 3,000-square-foot makerspace that houses making and engineering programs each and every day. Offerings are framed around a central design challenge: “How might we use technology to make our community a better place to live?” Peer into the studio on any given day and you may see:

  • Families working together to construct an earthquake-safe building.
  • A teenager designing prototype apps to help solve social issues.
  • Children laughing and learning as they repurpose familiar objects to solve whimsical challenges, such as delivering a cupcake to hungry beachgoers.
  • Visitors of all ages and backgrounds challenging themselves with open-ended design programs—free-form but tangible constructionist learning experiences with loose objects.

A visitor at The Tech Museum of Innovation learns how to solder in The Tech Studio.

A visitor at The Tech Museum of Innovation learns how to solder in The Tech Studio.

What’s the ultimate value of these efforts? We believe the value lies in challenging our guests (and ourselves) to understand their own problem-solving potential. To, as our mission states, inspire the innovator in everyone. We are excited to see how our visitors continue to rise to the challenge.

Prinda Wanakule

Prinda Wanakule

Danny Haeg

Danny Haeg

Danny Haeg is the director of Creative Collisions and Prinda Wanakule is the manager of Educational Programs at The Tech Museum of Innovation.

Issues: 
State: 
CA