A Museum for All Ages, the Cade Asks, “What Have You Invented Today?”


Imagine you’re lucky enough to grow up in a household with stimulating dinner conversation each night, often from visiting scientists, professors and a host of other intellectuals who squeeze in at your dinner table. You grow up invigorated and challenged; you love learning. And then suppose you discover to your surprise that not everyone gets to hear discussions on mathematical theories or Mozart’s violin sonatas over dinner; you’re really lucky. What do you do?

If you’re Phoebe Miles, youngest child of the late Dr. James Cade, leader of the research team that invented Gatorade in 1965 and professor of renal (kidney) medicine at the University of Florida, you decide to offer children from every socio-economic strata the opportunities you had to stretch their minds and hear the type of conversations you grew up hearing. You do so by building a museum in Gainesville focused exclusively on creativity, whose mission is to transform communities by inspiring and equipping future inventors, entrepreneurs and visionaries.

Not an easy task to raise the funds (9.2 million) to build a new museum, it took Phoebe and her husband Richard, 13 years of fundraising to finally realize their dream. And on May 19th the Cade Museum, at 811 South Main Street, finally opened its doors.

Walk through those doors and one of the first things you will probably notice is the architectural splendor coupled with whimsy—bright yellow and orange funky couches on the second floor that would not be out of place in a Dr. Seuss book, sitting in front of panoramic floor to ceiling windows overlooking Depot Park.

Everywhere you look the emphasis is on creativity. Ashley Bryant, Marketing and Communications Manager at Cade says everyone who comes through the door is encouraged to come with an open mind and experience science through the lens of invention. Imagination—which Einstein believed is more important than knowledge—is the underlying theme of everything at Cade, whether it’s robotic snakes that try to bite you given half a chance at the Robot Zoo, posters of patents splashed across the walls or the myriad of activities designed to stimulate your neurons, regardless of your age.

It’s easy to assume it’s a children’s museum since there are activities for children everywhere you look. However, Bryant notes, it’s actually a museum for all ages. As an example, how many museums have a real-life inventor coordinator on staff? The coordinator ensures there is an inventor on hand every Saturday morning to share how his or her invention came to fruition, as well as answer any and all questions. The current invention on display was a bike for paraplegics that actually makes paralyzed muscles move. The explanation was both simple and amazing: people with paralysis often have intact muscles but the path from the brain is blocked so the brain can’t tell the muscles what to do. The bike uses functional electrical stimulation– a technique that uses electricity to bypass the damage to the spinal cord and stimulate the lower motor neurons in the muscles. The stimulation then triggers the nerve to fire, actually causing paralyzed muscles to contract.

You’d also think it would be pretty difficult for Cade to locate a different inventor to show up every Saturday, but then the Cade is located in Gainesville, Florida, the nucleus for invention. In 2017 UF and USF produced 227 patents, more than the three universities of the Research Triangle, UNC, Duke and NC State (they only had 189). And during 2010 to 2015 UF, UCF and USF created 1,111 patents. Finally, Florida ranks tenth in the nation for total patents issued up to 2015, an amazing 97,000.

The rich and stimulating environment of the Cade is evident in every part of the museum. In one area you learn about the “Cade Way” a philosophy described as combining different disciplines to create an outcome that couldn’t be achieved from focusing on one discipline alone. On the second floor is a sign asking “What have you invented today?”  with hand drawn papers tacked on a bulletin board below. All exhibits are fluid except Dr. Cade’s Gatorade exhibit, the Sweat Solution.

Of course anyone who has been in Gainesville at least 24 hours knows Gatorade was created when Dr. Cade was asked (by former UF linebacker Dwayne Douglas) why football players never urinated during a game. Cade and his team of researchers began investigating dehydration in sports, which at the time had no reliable data. Research resulted in Gatorade. The Sweat Solution is the history of Gatorade.

Reaching into the community, the Cade is especially proud of its Cade Prize, a prize open to entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers and early stage companies designed to identify, recognize and celebrate inventive minds and innovation in Florida. Began in 2010, this is the first year there are four cash prizes awarded: $25,000, $15,000, $7500 and $2500, with funding provided by the Community Foundation of North Central Florida.

Hours for the Cade: Wednesday through Saturday: 10-5, Sunday 1-5, closed Monday and Tuesday.

By Jennifer Webb

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