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Idea Lab

Join MOHAI as we tinker, experiment, and create our way through history. Explore in the Idea Lab in the Bezos Center for Innovation or at home using the templates and videos. Activities change regularly!

Explore examples of innovations throughout history, build skills for innovation, and let your imagination soar with activities for the young and young at heart that rotate every few months. At the museum, sit down at the Idea Lab any time for a self-guided, hands-on activity inspired by MOHAI exhibits and programs. Explore the same ideas at home with videos and downloadable instructions for a craft or experiment designed by MOHAI Educators.

Currently at the Idea Lab

Seattle’s got style! Learn about innovative moments in Seattle’s fashion history and explore how the materials, construction, and aesthetics of a garment can meet both functional and expressive needs.

Creative Clothing

At the Museum

Explore the sewing and clothing design process with hands-on activities at the Idea Lab.

Online

Learn about the inspiration behind some of the fashion in MOHAI’s collection, and how designers take an idea and bring it to life.

At Home

Practice iterative design by building cardboard costumes that bring characters to life.

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Past At-Home Activities

On-site Idea Lab activities rotate regularly, but you can still enjoy the videos and at-home activities from prior months!

Bikes

Seattle has an extensive network of bike paths, including neighborhood greenways, protected bike lanes, and trails. Learn about the history of one of Seattle’s most iconic trails and about some of the forces that make bikes move. Then, explore balance, friction, gravity, and more by building whimsical rollers that move in interesting ways.

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Various items including paper plates, pencils, a feather, and a plastic container against a blue background.

Board Games

If you are a fan of board games and card games, there’s a good chance you’ve played one that was invented locally. The greater Seattle area has become a haven for people who love to play and make board games. Learn about the inspiration behind iconic Seattle board games, then create your own fun by building a prototype of a board game you design yourself. You dream up the idea, and we’ll show you simple ways to build your prototype.

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Board game components (pink 1-4 spinner, multi-colored cube, purple and green viewfinder) against a blue background.

Music and Dance

The Cornish College of the Arts here in Seattle became well-known as a center for ground-breaking innovations in music and dance in the 1920s and 30s. Learn how collaborations between students and faculty at Cornish across artistic disciplines led to exciting innovations in music and dance. Then, with a piece of music as your inspiration and the everyday materials around you, build a work of art that moves!

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Single arm with hand holding glue, a wooden dowel, a white feather, and a clear plastic bag full of colorful knick knacks.

Storytelling

Seattle has inspired countless stories throughout history, both as a place to write stories about, and as a place for people to hear and share stories. Dip your toes into the storytelling and literary history of the Puget Sound region and take a closer look at two different innovations in reading technology. Then, learn how to make three different types of books made from a single sheet of paper!

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Single sheet books crafted with black ink on white paper.

City Planning

What would make your community or city an even better place to live? How can we make sure that projects like new buildings, parks, and public transit meet a wide range of community needs now and in the future? Learn about past plans for the city’s future and ask questions about why our cities, neighborhoods, and homes look the way they do today. At home, download and print a neighborhood bingo to explore the impacts of urban planning in your own community.

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Idea Lab worksheet for January 2023 on clipboard outside MOHAI.

Computers

Seattle has long been a hub for innovation in computer technology. Let’s explore some of the early history and basic foundations of computer programming! Learn about early computers and the fundamentals of coding, then practice your coding skills with a simple game you can play with your friends and family in which one person is the programmer and the other is the computer.

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Idea Lab Computer Logic Activity

Photography

View the world through a new lens! Explore how innovations in photographic technology have changed the way we see and document the world around us. Then, learn how to build a portable camera obscura that captures light.

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Person using portable camera obscura

Boats

Seattle is a city of water – it’s all around us! What makes boats float? Learn about some of the important elements of boat design, then complete a buoyancy challenge at home.

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A square "boat" made out of aluminum foil, supporting 8 screw nuts

Music

Rock out with MOHAI! Learn about the history and science behind the electric guitar, then explore the relationship between vibration and sound with a simple but musical cardboard box guitar you can build at home.

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Guitar crafted with household supplies

Clocks

Explore the simple machines that make mechanical clocks tick!  Take a peek into the past with one of our outdoor artifacts, the Carroll’s clock, on display on the MOHAI Boeing Centennial Terrace. Then, learn how to use everyday materials and the physics of pendulums to make works of art at home!

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da Vinci Bridge

Explore the many bridges of Seattle and the basic elements of bridge design. Then, learn about a unique bridge designed by Leonardo da Vinci that can be built and deconstructed rapidly, and how build your own version at home! Pair the activities with a visit to Da Vinci – Inventions, currently on view at MOHAI.

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Arching bridge built with tongue depressors

George Tsutakawa

Explore the art and process of renowned painter and sculptor George Tsutakawa. Watch a quick introduction to the fountains of George Tsutakawa, then explore how water falls over and through different shapes.

Explore the shapes that water makes and design your own fountain sculpture at home!

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Water being poured over small orange sphere

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