Can you build the next chemistry set?

A new competition from the Society for Science & the Public is out to reinvent one of science’s most beloved traditions

Old fashioned chemistry sets could produce some great explosions, but they just don’t build them like they used to.

Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

When you read interviews and biographies with famous scientists, one common theme comes up. When asked how they got into science as kids, scientists often say they played with chemistry sets.

The chemistry sets of yore could produce fires, small explosions and eat away your kitchen table. But those sets could also tell you a lot about how the world works. They gave many scientists their first eureka moments, offering a taste of the amazing things that await in a life of inquiry.

But that was then. Chemistry sets with dangerous chemicals are illegal now. What will be the next big science adventure for kids? What toy will allow them to experiment, play and learn?

Enter the SPARK Competition. SPARK, The Science Play and Research Kit, is a challenge to reimagine the chemistry set. The goal is to come up with a new set of tools that encourage imagination and scientific creativity. If you’ve got a great idea, you could win big. SPARK is offering prizes of up to $50,000!

The competition isn’t limited to re-inventing the chemistry set. There’s an ideas category, too. Maybe you’ve got a great new idea to develop engineering skills. Maybe it’s a game to help kids learn to code. Maybe it’s a kit that helps kids understand their own biology. Whatever it is, it could be the inspiring chemistry set of the future.

The competition is run by the Society for Science & the Public, the publisher of Eureka! Lab and Science News for Students, with funding support from the Moore Foundation.

You can submit your ideas or prototypes to SPARK any time before January 7, 2014. If you are a science educator or a science enthusiast who knows what it takes to give kids those eureka moments, submit your ideas to SPARK! 

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.