ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival

2019 ACCelerate Festival School Group and Youth Organization Chaperone Guide

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology welcome you and your school group to the 2019 ACCelerate Festival where visitors get the opportunity to explore, discover emerging technologies, and learn about potential careers in science, engineering, arts, and design. The festival features 38 interactive displays and 13 performances by students and faculty, including the ACC Debate Championship, representing the fifteen universities comprising the ACC.


The National Museum of American History (NMAH), Washington D.C.


April 5-7, from 10 A.M. – 5:30 P.M.

What Makes the Festival a Meaningful Experience?

  • Sparking conversation about invention and innovation in higher learning
  • Inspiring future courses of study and career paths
  • Introducing the ACC Institutions
  • Participating in the invention process
  • Being actively engaged
  • Learning something new – big or small
  • Sharing personal stories of innovation, invention, and creativity

Before You Arrive

Register your group:  Complete the online registration found at:

Please register by March 15, 2019 to help us better serve you.

We recommend that you allow about three hours for a visit to the ACCelerate Festival to ensure your group has time to explore all the fun activities, displays, and exhibits around the museum.

Please be advised that the museum may be crowded throughout the festival. If your class is larger than 10 students, consider splitting into smaller groups beforehand to explore the festival and ensure students have the opportunity to engage with presenters in a meaningful way. One adult chaperone is required for every 10 students; however, we recommend one for every 5 to make for more enriching group interaction at each display or performance.

The National Museum of American History strives to be an inclusive environment for individuals with different styles of learning and abilities. Our volunteers and facilitators are trained to engage people of all abilities and learning styles in having a fun and memorable experience. Many festival displays incorporate activities involve multi-sensory experiences allowing different levels of engagement based on needs and comfort.

On the National Museum of American History (NMAH) website, you can find more information on accessibility resources and additional material to help you plan your visit:

Of special note is the link entitled, “Plan your Field Trip”:  Here you can find information about:

  • Planning for lunch
  • Recruiting chaperones
  • Discover other NMAH exhibits that you may want to visit. There are a number of exhibits on the first floor west wing related to invention and innovation, including Spark!Lab, our hands-on invention space where the students become the inventors. You’ll be asked on the ACCelerate registration form for you to check those exhibits so we can best advise you how to best visit everything you want to see.
  • Some simple rules and other tips for visiting the museum.

Attending the Festival

When you arrive at the NMAH and check through security, please stop at the ACCelerate Check-In Desk on the first floor of the museum.  The greeter will orient you and your group to the ACCelerate Festival and provide a brief overview of what you can do during your visit. We’ll help you with wayfinding and provide you with maps of the festival exhibits. It is the responsibility of supervising the students to remain with teachers and chaperones.  We suggest that all chaperones have each other’s cell phone numbers in case there is an issue.

Your group can start exploring the museum anywhere you’d like.  The ACCelerate Festival displays and performances are organized around three common themes which connect with NMAH collections and exhibitions:

  • Exploring… Culture and Society
  • Exploring… Environment
  • Exploring… Health and Body

Please stop by the desk before you leave to share your experience and complete a brief evaluation survey.  It will take only about 5 minutes and provide us with important feedback about your experience and how we can improve the festival in the future.

Helping your Students Get the Most Out of the Festival

The Festival is designed to help students and their parents see new possibilities for future careers and innovations coming in the future and get to know the ACC institutions.  You’ll be able to talk directly with the researchers who are designing, developing, and implementing cutting-edge projects and processes.  There will be faculty and students at the exhibits so you’ll be able to learn first-hand about the research and the universities!  Active participation is essential to your students’ understanding of the invention process. While the researchers are primed to talk with you, please coach your students to ask questions of the exhibitors.  We want students and chaperones to ask questions to share ideas and foster collaborative learning.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Tell me about your project.
  • Ask questions about something you observe.
  • What problem are you solving with your work? Why are you doing this project?
  • How did you come up with your idea?
  • How did you create your invention/project? What was the hardest part? What was the most fun?
  • How did you test your idea? What did you learn from that process?
  • Are you a professor or student? If a student, how long have you been in college?  Tell me about your classes.
  • What makes your invention unique or different from other inventions/projects?
  • Where and how did you learn the skills you needed to do this?
  • What subject(s)/disciplines(s) did you use for this project?
  • What was the hardest part of your project process?
  • Who will use your invention? Who is your project/invention for? Who does your project/invention help?
  • What is the next step for this project?
  • How could you improve your design/project/invention?

After Your Visit

Visit the National Museum of American History’s website for information on how to extend your visit

We also suggest you:

  • Explore further about the projects that you and your students found most interesting. Think about how to integrate the research projects with your curriculum.
  • Talk with your students about the projects, your possible career interests, and the possibilities that any of the ACC institutions might be potential universities in your future.
  • Also encourage your students to talk with family, school counselors, and teachers about colleges in general, routes to higher education, and other issues such as needed grades and high school courses, and scholarships.