By Kate Hanley
You already know that hopping into your Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel* and getting out of your daily environment inspires creativity. After all, your vehicle goes against the grain of conventional wisdom—few compact cars are diesel, and popular perception doesn’t associate diesel fuel with environmental friendliness. You get the value of thinking differently.
To immerse yourself in an environment that also values ingenuity, program your available navigation system to lead you to one of these five imagination stations around the country.
TedX Conferences, Worldwide
You’ve probably seen a TED talk posted on your Facebook feed—one of those videos featuring a notable someone giving a compelling talk on an “idea worth spreading.” Official TED conferences happen once a year with a high-dollar ticket cost and top-notch speakers, but TEDx is a series of smaller-scale, more affordable events that happen in locations all around the world.
These day-long gatherings always consist of at least two videos of true TED talks, and may also include live presentations from forward-thinkers in the local community. Attending a TEDx event is a great way to shake up your creative juices and meet likeminded innovators. Find an upcoming event near you.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab, New York, NY
This free, four-story interactive children’s museum located in midtown Manhattan celebrates technology in all its forms and applications—past, present and future. Visitors can create their own animated character, program a robot and even perform virtual surgery. With hands-on
workshops and free screenings in its HD Theater, the Sony Wonder Technology Lab is the perfect place to put your kids’ (and your own) love of all things digital to imaginative use.
Spaceport America, Southwestern New Mexico
Commercial space travel is becoming more of a reality, thanks in part to the state of New Mexico’s foresight in creating this commercial launching pad and space center in the desert outside the town of Truth or Consequences. First envisioned in the early 1990s, this LEED-certified facility launched its first rocket in 2006, and finished up its $209 million construction in 2013. Visitors can book a three-hour tour of the facility and the surrounding environment. The Spaceport complex includes two working cattle ranches and showcases the history of the Old West.
FIRST Teams and Competitions, Countrywide
Ready, set, program! FIRST (an acronym: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national nonprofit that uses a sports model to get kids engrossed in science, technology and engineering—while teaching them job and life skills along the way. There are programs for kids of all ages, from FIRST Lego Leagues for grades K-8 and FIRST Tech Challenge for grades 7-12 to FIRST Robotics Competition for grades 9-12. To see creativity in action (or engage in a little problem-solving of your own), you can attend a competition, sign your kids up for a team or volunteer as an adult mentor. Whichever route you choose, you’re supporting endeavors that are educational, exciting, useful and—perhaps most importantly—fun.
Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, Washington, DC
This museum—dedicated to American innovation—was the first building in the Smithsonian complex to open, as the original National Museum. Rather than staying focused on chronicling the past, the Arts and Industries Building is currently undergoing an extensive renovation and will be reborn, in collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as a museum dedicated to honoring forward thinking. While it’s not scheduled to reopen until the summer of 2014, in the meantime you can check out a construction camp and tour an online exhibit that chronicles the history of this American treasure, right from your desk.
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*Clean diesels generate at least 90% less nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate emissions when compared to previous-generation diesels.