Sparking Curiosity

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Glass vials, a row of chemicals, and an alcohol lamp. Perhaps nothing symbolized the excitement of science in the early to mid-20th century better than a chemistry set. The classic kits got kids tinkering, experimenting and thinking about science. In the process, they inspired a generation of inventors and scientists, some of whom became Nobel Prize-winners. But somewhere along the way, spurred by safety concerns and legal changes, chemistry sets faded in popularity.

A new competition, launched this week, aims to find the 21st century version of the classic chemistry set. A collaboration between the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public, the Science, Play and Research Kit competition (SPARK) challenges participants to generate a new set of experiences and activities that encourage imagination and interest in science, bringing the spirit of the classic chemistry set to today’s children.

Margaret Honey, NYSCI’s president and CEO, is an advisor to the competition, which will offer tangible ways to get more kids experimenting with science.

The competition’s top award is for the best science kit prototype with a prize of $50,000. Additional prizes ranging from $1,000 – $25,000 will be awarded for runners-up and idea submissions.

"With its cards, wrapping, decorations, boxes and cut trees, Christmas often devolves from a time of joy into a time of junk. The New York Hall of Science has an annual solution: ReMake the Holidays, which pairs young visitors with artists and educators to turn trash into treasure."