Discovery Museum | PLAY+INVENT Residency

Audience engagement | Visual Story Telling | Prop Making | Workshop Delivery

To coincide with the Discovery Museums opening their Play+Invent space 'a dedicated hands-on maker space for budding inventors, designers and makers within the museum' I was given the role of Cardboard Engineer in Residence and invited to explore the museum and it's collections.


The aim was to produce a body of work to encourage the children visiting the museum to get hands on and get inventing. I produced 3 Interventions within the museum inspired by these explorations.

There was so very much material I didn't even scratch the surface of. I LOVE science and industry museums and old objects with all their history and signs of life. The North East has so much and their archives were a dream of a a place to snoop around.

To help me sort the mass of inspiration I focused on placing a piece that fit and was inspired by 3 exhibition spaces at the museum.

All the fun of the Fair

All the Fun of the Fair charted the history and development of Newcastle’s much-loved Hoppings fair, first held on the Town Moor in 1882. Containing a unique collection of 50 vintage coin-operated amusement machines, that YOU COULD ACTUALLY PLAY (once you'd converted your new pennies to old ones)

An excuse for a piece with all the internal mechanical movement of the amusement machines found in the exhibition. A slightly dastardly looking fairground operator who tipped his top hat to welcome visitors.

Automaton Motion, Discovery Museum Residency

Tyneside Challenge Gallery

Tyneside's rich history of scientific invention and industrial activity from Stephenson's famous locomotives to the revolutionary Armstrong No.1 Gun and the Mauretania.


I made an exhibit that fitted in with the formatting of the signage in this gallery space, all exhibits information is labeled under the same stylised format asking,

The Challenge: The Answer: The Result:

I made the Moranis.89, an Atomic Shrink Ray created as a solution to lack of cargo space on deep space exploration missions, on loan from NASA 2038. 

Science Maze

A huge variety of interactive displays bring science and engineering to life. You can also find some of Joseph Swan's famous lightbulbs and a number of working engines and turbines.

For this space I wanted to make something that recreated the movements of some of the fantastic industrial machinery in the gallery. The museum have several of the machines actually working once a week which is a fantastic thing to see. Bring the history to life. I invented an Idea Extraction Engine to help sort ideas in an overly full mind.

Journey to Mars

Did you know NASA have set out a detailed plan of what we need to do and learn in order to send the first humans to Mars? It could even be you!

Before we get there there’s going to be an awful lot of work. The first explorers are going to need a lot of new technologies and inventions, from space suits to protect from the atmosphere, methods for growing food on Mars, surface transportation and maybe even a translator for communicating with any Martians they might meet.

Join in and become a space pioneer by creating an invention that helps solves one of the many challenges that we’ll face on our way to Mars.


I devised and ran 3 weekends of workshops in my time at the museum each set running thematically alongside each installation featured above. Inventions and images created to inspire involvement and for the promotion of workshops across the museums channels.

Making Movements

On, Off, Up, Down, Round and Round. Cogs, Cams, Levers, Pulleys and Belts.

Come along and learn to make your cardboard creations come to life with moving elements.

Drawing inspiration from the mechanical movements of the vintage coin-operated amusement machines currently found in the Museums ‘All the Fun of the Fair: 135 Years of The Hoppings’ exhibit and the wonderful engines up in the Science Maze.

What will you invent?


Together let’s build a gigantic, whirring, whizzing machine to help solve everyday problems.

Every invention is made up of lots of different parts and many of these parts often already exist. 

Many useful inventions can be made by reusing old ideas or parts, thinking about them differently and connecting them in new ways.


Whatever you decide to build each group will begin with the same set of individual parts.

How you arrange them, how you add to them and what they become is up to you!

At the end of the workshop you’ll be able to see what the other groups made with the same starting blocks and see how your ideas help shape different outcomes to the same problem.

How different would things look today if you’d been the one to design the first car, steam engine or washing machine?

© 2020 | UK | Lottie Smith | cutting and sticking since 1985                                            

  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • LinkedIn
Cardboard Automaton

Discovery Museum Residency