The Works STEM museum cultivating young engineers


The WorksFrom its humble beginnings as an exhibit in the Bell Museum nearly 20 years ago, The Works has grown to reach more than 70,000 people in the last fiscal year, spurring creativity and ingenuity within young minds.

Located in Bloomington, The Works identifies itself as a “hands-on, minds-on” museum for children, with a specific slant toward science and engineering. Targeting elementary school kids, the exhibits and activities are generally on the basic side, but they aim to spur an interest in a field that figures to strengthen its hold on the world as the next generation grows into maturity.

“We present different engineering and design challenges in fun and creative ways that children that age can relate to,” says Jill Measells, who took over as the company’s CEO after founder Rebecca Schatz moved on about a year ago. “The goal is really to develop critical 21st-century work skills in students today. Creativity, imagination and innovation.”

The museum moved to its new 40,000 square foot Bloomington location last November after outgrowing its previous space, which was one-eighth the size, in the Edina Community Center. Open five days a week, The Works welcomes the general public on daily admission ($8) as well as school groups. Memberships are also available.

The Works Musem 1Visitors can explore exhibits designed to exemplify different areas of engineering such as electrical, mechanical, civil, architecture and more, with an emphasis on explaining to kids how man made things in their world, such as a zipper, light, or a magnet function.

There is also a design lab featuring interactive challenges intended to engage the mind. One example is a workshop called “Float Your Boat,” where participants are given an array of unique materials like cereal boxes and straws and tasked with creating something that can float.

The Works 2“Our focus is on the process of creativity, design and engineering, not on the result,” says Measells. “So for us, success is not going in and getting it right the first time. Success is trying to improve the design along the way.”

The museum also reaches out to adults with a focus on training educators through professional development workshops and programs designed to help teachers integrate engineering into their curricula, such as On November 12, they’ll be hosting as the upcoming E4 (Excelling in Elementary Engineering Education) Conference on November 12.

The Works is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that operates through admission proceeds as well as philanthropic support from corporate, foundation and individual donors; November 15th is the annual fundraiser – “Innovation Starts Here.”