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ScienceWorks wins national grant to showcase local innovation

 Posted: 3:30 PM April 25, 2014

ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum is one of six organizations in the nation selected by the Smithsonian Institution to present local innovation and invention at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

Southern Oregon Historical Society will work with ScienceWorks to research and produce a three- to four-minute video to show the relationships of community to invention, says ScienceWorks Executive Director Chip Lindsey. The museum received a $10,000 grant for the project.

"Places of Invention" will open next year and also be available on the Internet. Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is guiding the project, which will highlight unique combinations of inspiring surroundings, creative people and ready resources.

The Rogue Valley is one of the nation's "hot spots" for new ideas and their implementation, says Lindsey. A pilot Smithsonian project portrays precision manufacturing in Hartford, Conn., personal computers in Silicon Valley and clean energy innovations in Fort Collin, Colo.

"Our question is very simple: Why here? Why at this time?" says Lindsey.

"There's an old saying. If you want to know where someone is going, look at where they have been," says Lindsey. The same logic applies to places, he says.

While final decisions have not been made on what to include, the project team already has met with electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo, agricultural marketing firm Harry and David, local cooperatives, the Jackson County Historical Association and the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project.

Lindsey hopes to portray what he sees as tremendous cooperation among organizations in the valley that has led to innovation. Cooperatives exchange information, the wine industry acts collaboratively and the Forest Resiliency project brought together community groups, he says.

"We are all neighbors in this €¦ instead of being competitors," says Lindsey. SOHS Special Projects Curator Amy Drake and ScienceWorks Development Director Shelia Carder will attend a Smithsonian workshop on the project in Washington, D.C., during December.

"We'll do the research, find the stories and help them pull it together," Drake says.

A listening session with members of the historical association, which includes community history organizations, pointed to numerous small innovations that have helped orchardists, says Drake.

Part of the project will be a public show for the Rogue Valley. ScienceWorks will also highlight the findings at its museum, Lindsey says.

A total of 27 applications for the grants were received, says Kate Wiley of the Lemelson Center. The five other communities selected join six that participated in the pilot project.

"I'm optimistic that this is a good springboard," says Lindsey, who looks forward to future collaborations with the Smithsonian. "The national partnerships allow us to put our heads above the fray."

— Tony Boom

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