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Clemson teams to participate in ACCelerate at Smithsonian


“ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival” Returns to the National Museum of American History

For the first time in over two years, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is welcoming visitors back inside to attend a major public festival. The museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT), will present the 2022 ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival. This year’s ACCelerate Festival opens April 8 and runs through April 10. The three-day event is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET each day.

The event is presented by the ACC Academic Consortium. The consortium, led by the provosts and academic leaders of all 15 member institutions, provides a vehicle for inter-institutional academic and administrative collaboration between member universities.

Clemson is sending two cross-discipline research teams to participate in the festival, with interactive exhibits on brain research and architectural engagement.

“The opportunity for our students and faculty to participate in ACCelerate, and the challenge of developing interactive exhibits for complex research endeavors, is another example of the experiential learning available through a Clemson education,” Senior Associate Provost John Griffin said.


Historically, brain research has focused on either molecular and cellular mechanisms of neurons or whole-brain signaling dynamics. However, recent discoveries suggest that the fundamental units of brain functionality are not single neurons but simple circuits composed of a few neurons. Therefore, we approach brain research by building and testing simple, rationally designed neuronal circuits to reveal how brain functions arise from cells working together in small teams.

In the Building Brains exhibit, visitors will explore the concepts of how repetition might lead to learning through a Neuronal Circuit Memory Arcade Game. They will learn how we perform this research through a Neuronal Trap and Circuit Building Game. And they will even get to remotely operate the optical tweezer microelectrode array instrument we use to build brains back in the lab at Clemson! Visitors of all ages will broaden their awareness of how diverse brain research approaches contribute to understanding how the human mind works.


Throughout history, architectural gates have given physical and conceptual shape to human habitation. E.g., the Fargate of Sheffield, outside the castle at the confluence of two rivers, likely dates to at least 1200 AD, as an amalgam of protection, commerce, and social interaction. Our Fargates are a platform for physically and digitally bridging people, places, and content. They weave bands of multitouch screens and illuminated interactive paper with constellations of tangible interaction devices, all upon an illuminated, remotely-linked floor. These enable interaction with varied scientific and general information, and with people at remote Fargate installations. We believe Fargates illustrate a promising path toward architectural engagement with remote people and information.


The ACCelerate Festival is a celebration of creative exploration and innovative research happening at the intersection of science, engineering, arts and design from across the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Smithsonian. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage with a multitude of innovators leading the way in creative exploration. There will be 25 interactive installations presented by students and faculty of universities and colleges in the ACC. The museum’s Draper Spark!Lab will also temporarily reopen for in-person invention activities during the festival.

Part exhibit, part festival, the ACCelerate projects will span two floors of the museum and bridge the gaps between the natural world and emerging trends in technology. Visitors can meet and sing along with lifelike penguin robots, learn how researchers are thinking about how to perform surgery in space where bleeding can create hazardous situations in a microgravity environment and take a virtual reality journey to natural environments most affected by climate change.

A full list of ACCelerate Festival exhibits is available.

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