About the Lab

The Innovation Lab is a "test kitchen" of sorts, except instead of working on new recipes we're experimenting with ideas that empower creative thinkers and jumpstart innovation. We work with a growing network of community partners to develop and pilot ideas, identify implementation best practices, and, ultimately, rapidly scale successful initiatives throughout the community and beyond.

The Innovation Lab's process is composed of three distinct phases. 

Phase 1: Ideate

We work with partners (individuals, organizations, and businesses) to find ideas with great potential. Specifically, we look for program ideas that will strengthen creative thinking and innovation within the fields of Science, Art, and Technology. 

Phase 2: Incubate

Ideas are meant to be tested and refined. Working with our partners, we test ways to move ideas from thought to reality as effectively and efficiently as possible. In the incubation phase we help partners design their program, identify support networks, pull together resources, and capture best practices.

Phase 3: Replicate

The goal from the start is to create programs that foster creative thinking and innovation and get them to as many people as possible. The replication phase is all about scaling programs. We help partners launch new programming sites and identify sustainable growth opportunities. In addition, we convene program partners periodically to share new learning, best practices, and develop a support community. 



Current Phase: Incubation

Executive Summary: The mobile play lab concept arose out of a need for high quality, creativity-building experiences that could be taken directly to children throughout the community, right where they already live, play, and learn. The project transforms shipping containers into portable play labs that feature activities designed to strengthen creative thinking and innovation skills through play.

Project Partners: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, KaBOOM!, City of Dubuque, Dubuque Racing Association, John Deere, US Bank


Current Phase: Incubation

Executive Summary: Girls Who Code is a national project that uses coding clubs to close the gender gap in technology. This program creates free opportunities for girls to learn coding and create meaningful support networks. This mission resonated with local computer science teacher Amanda Gorenson, who approached us to help her get as many girls coding as possible. We helped Amanda start conversations about Girls Who Code with people and businesses interested in the concept, which lead to a local club forming.

Project Partners: PBS Systems, NICC, Design Mill


Current Phase: Incubation

Executive Summary: The Dubuque community has developed an amazing First® LEGO® League network. The FIRST® LEGO® League program introduces kids in elementary and middle school to building & programming LEGO® robots, working as a team, and innovating to solve problems. However, as students move into upper grades, there are limited opportunities for them to continue this development. Aaron Vesperman and Amanda Gorenson approached us to help them launch a FIRST® Tech Challenge team for older students interested in "competition for the mind." The FIRST® Tech Challenge is designed for students in middle and high school and builds on the teamwork, tech, engineering, and innovation skills learned in FIRST® LEGO® League.

Project Partners: Aaron Vesperman, Amanda Gorenson, John Deere

Have a program idea?

We love to hear from people who have ideas for programs that foster creative thinking and innovation, especially in STEAM fields. If that's you, use the form below to submit your proposal and start the conversation.

Name *
Have you started putting your idea into action? Have you talked to people who want to help? Tell us what's happened already. If you're just getting started, no problem, just leave this field blank.