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9 Kid-Friendly Museums Around the Country That Celebrate and Teach Innovation

By Marcia Simmons

Foster a new generation of innovators by bringing the kids to these inspirational museums of science, industry and technology. Whether your budding genius is a Silicon Valley inventor in the making or a future Chevrolet auto pioneer, you’ll find entertaining exhibits and engaging hands-on workshops to stimulate their minds.

The Tech Museum of Innovation (San Jose, CA)

Located in the land of microchips, this museum offers 10 different interactive experiences, including a workshop where you design, build and program a real robot, and an “exploration gallery,” complete with a submarine simulator and a jet-pack chair. After all that active learning, you and your scientist-in-training can kick back and enjoy an IMAX movie at the museum’s theater.

Innovation Lab at the Children’s Creativity Museum (San Francisco, CA)

The Mystery Box Challenge asks kids to invent something using only materials inside a given box. You can take your little inventor’s new creation home or leave it on display at the Innovation Lab to inspire others.

Innovation Studios at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (Fort Worth, TX)

This museum has five giant, glass-walled studios dedicated to hands-on learning about building, designing and creating. Each month there’s a new program that focuses on combining art and science to solve problems or explore ideas.

Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL)

There are a variety of exhibits here that will excite young minds, but The Fab Lab lets kids (and adults!) play with some cutting-edge tech while they learn a thing or two. Design and make vinyl stickers, print a mini version of yourself with a 3-D printer and create your own souvenir with a laser cutter.

National Corvette Museum (Bowling Green, KY)

Encourage your blossoming engineers by showing them ingenuity in action. In addition to more than 70 Corvette models (including the 2014 Stingray) and one-of-a-kind concept cars, the museum always has special exhibits featuring things like antique classic cars and behind-the-scenes tech. Starting in Fall 2013, you can even get a tour of the Corvette assembly plant, which is across the street.

Museum of Innovation and Science (Schenectady, NY)

Each month there’s a new “Hands-On Science Class,” covering everything from making an electromagnet to edible experiments. There are also rotating exhibits about natural history, technology and more.

MIT Museum (Cambridge, MA)

At what may be the country’s most renowned university for science and technology, this museum is jam-packed with exhibits about topics as varied as artificial intelligence, holograms, ship design and the humble slide rule. Check the calendar for festivals, special lectures by tech superstars and workshops for the whole family.

Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation (Waltham, MA)

Celebrate (and learn from) the past at this museum housed in the first factory every built in the United States. Exploring a replica of an early factory, with all its vintage pulleys and leather belts, or discovering how steam power set the industrial revolution in motion can spark your child’s imagination.

Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop (Hamden, CT)

While there are historical exhibits about Whitney and other important inventors here, learning by doing is the focus of this museum. Design and assemble your own machine, build a little house, construct a Rube Goldberg contraption, even make a Leonardo da Vinci paddleboat. For the spontaneous or for those too busy to plan ahead, the museum’s walk-in workshops will likewise entertain and inspire little Next-Gen innovators.

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Marcia Simmons is a San Francisco Bay Area writer. Her work has appeared in Geek, Go and Shape, among other publications. She writes the DIY vs. Buy column for Serious Eats and edits NOTCOT’s Liqurious section. She is also a co-author of the book DIY Cocktails.