Smithsonian and Cricket Media Launch the 5th Annual Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge for Kids Worldwide

This Year’s Focus is on Creative Solutions to Real-World Health Problems

WASHINGTON, DC—January 15, 2016 – It’s that time of year again for all kid-inventors to put on their innovative thinking caps! The official launch of the 5th annual Global Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge is January 15th — just in time to celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day, which celebrates the important role children play in sparking innovation worldwide.

ePals, a product of Cricket Media, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, today opens the call for entries for the Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge. The Challenge offers eligible children from around the world the opportunity to showcase their creative thinking on a global stage and to win exciting prizes such as a consultation with the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm for an official patent filing, Camp Invention® scholarship, LEGO® kit, books from Smithsonian, a Boardr Boys Skateboard Starter Kit, and subscriptions to Cricket Media’s Science Magazines. Individual students, entire classrooms, schools and other organizations serving children between the ages of 5-21 (in grades K-12) are encouraged to participate.

This year’s Challenge invites kids to think about a real-world health problem and come up with a solution. Kids are guided to look at the world around them and think about the health problems facing people and their families, communities and the world. Specifically, the Challenge encourages them to tackle issues such as nutrition, the importance of sleep, preventing the spread of disease, street safety, screen time, assistive technologies, mental and emotional health, sports safety, healthy air and water and elder health.

“Every year we are inspired by the innovation and creativity of kids worldwide in tackling this challenge,” said Katya Andresen, Chief Executive Officer, Cricket Media. “We are honored to once again join with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center and Spark!Lab to engage kids globally and showcase their ideas, which encourage us all to make a difference in the world.”

Highlights from the 2015 Invent It! Challenge winners include the following solutions by young inventors:

  • Access to water is a big problem for many across the world. Problem solved, according to a team of 8-10 year olds in New Jersey. They designed an Earth-friendly portable water filtration system to help people without access to clean water.
  • There are 1.4 billion people in the world who don’t have access to electricity. A 13-year-old from Indiana focused on that problem and created a tool he dubbed “The Mudlite,” which harvests electricity from—you guessed it—mud. This tool was able to harness enough energy to power an LED.
  • Inspired by the nurses who lost their lives to Ebola, a team of 9-12 year olds from Virginia created A.N.A., the Autonomous Nurse Assistant. A.N.A. is a robotic nurse that can deliver food, water or medicine to a sick patient.

“The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center believes that everyone is inventive—particularly kids,” said Tricia Edwards, Head of Education at the Lemelson Center. “The Invent It Challenge is a great opportunity for students to recognize their creative and problem-solving abilities.”

The Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge requires students to follow seven key steps in the invention process, including identifying a problem, conducting research, sketching their ideas, building a prototype, testing the product, refining it, and marketing it to potential users. The process helps to cultivate and reinforce 21st-century skills, including the use of digital technologies, and also meets several learning standards. A panel composed of Smithsonian and Cricket Media judges will select winners. The deadline for submitting inventions to the Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge is March 18, 2016. For complete entry guidelines and Official Rules, visit


Cricket Media is an education media company that provides award-winning content on a safe and secure learning network for children, families and teachers across the world. Cricket Media’s 11 popular media brands for toddlers to teens include Babybug®, Ladybug®, Cricket™ and Cobblestone™. The Company’s innovative web-based K12 tools for school and home include the ePals community and virtual classroom for global collaboration as well as In2Books®, a Common Core eMentoring program that builds reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Cricket Media serves millions of teachers, students and parents in over 200 countries and territories through its platform and NeuPals, its joint venture with China’s leading IT services company Neusoft. Cricket Media also licenses its content and platform to top publishing and educational companies worldwide. For more information, please visit


Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention activity space operated by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Lemelson Center’s mission is to document, interpret and disseminate information about invention and innovation, to encourage creativity in young people, and to foster an appreciation for the central role of invention and innovation in the history of the United States.


Cricket Media

Katya Andresen


Cricket Media


Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Kate Wiley, Communications Specialist