Editorial Review

Design Squad Nation

Classmates can compete to solve fun engineering problems
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Graphite Rating 5
  • The highly engaging home page has links to the major sections: Watch, Build, Share, Games, and Top Builder.
  • The site includes many of the TV episodes from Design Squad on PBS Kids.
  • The Build section has instructions for building an array of devices using household supplies.
  • Games reinforce engineering concepts in interactive ways.
  • Parents and teachers get access to support documents such as downloadable lesson plans.
Pros
Highly interactive resources drive home the skills and processes of engineering and design.
Cons
Episodes and games use Adobe Flash and will not work on iOS devices.
Bottom Line
Design Squad Nation makes engineering fun through hands-on activities and easy-to-understand scientific explanations.

Graphite Expert Review

Graphite Staff
Common Sense Graphite Reviewer
Graphite Rating 5
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Video episodes grab kids' attention, and games teach engineering concepts through practice.  At-home activities and challenges extend the learning offline.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

TV episodes that show the scientific process of brainstorming and prototyping combined with hands-on activities makes for a powerful way to learn. Students can participate in at-home design challenges, as well.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The site provides extensive support, and games include audio instructions. All episodes have closed captioning, and step-by-step instructions make the home activities easy to complete.

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What's It Like?

The Design Squad Nation website complements the PBS Kids television show "Design Squad," in which teenagers compete to create the most novel solutions to engineering challenges. The competitive aspect of activities, along with video demonstration of the brainstorming and prototyping that go into design, make the website a great learning tool for kids. All episodes from the show include closed captioning.

On the top navigation, kids can choose from Watch, Build, Share, Games, or Top Builder. The Watch section features "Design Squad" TV episodes, tagged by topic, along with videos that explore the science of everyday items like bicycle gears. The Build section includes ideas for hands-on projects that kids can complete with adult supervision, as well as links to related videos and a contact form to reach the stars of the show. In Share, kids can post design ideas and drawings in response to a range of questions like, "What would you build for the outdoors?" The Games section lets kids play interactive games that teach engineering concepts; kids don't need accounts unless they want to save and share their scores. Top Builder shows current and past design challenges.

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Is It Good For Learning?

High-quality, engineering-related games present interactive ways for kids to explore the problem-solving process. Kids with a wide range of reading and math skills will find games fun and engaging and, in addition to critical-thinking skills, may develop some math and science learning along the way.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Design Squad Nation is a highly engaging and effective way to teach kids to develop complex and original solutions to engineering problems. Teachers can start projects in the classroom and send kids home to finish them. The challenges are the best part of the site; they put learning in kids' hands and give teachers a way to connect the TV episodes to meaningful classroom experiences. For example, kids can earn recognition for creating the best bridge made of pennies or the farthest-traveling balloon-powered race car. The competitive aspect encourages creativity.

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See how teachers are using Design Squad Nation

Lesson Flows