Parents, Educators & Engineers

Dream It. Build It. Teach It!

Get kids excited about engineering.

December 2010 Archives

1. Build a Paper Table out of used wrapping paper.

2. Turn an empty sweater box into an Electric Gamebox.
3. Surprise your relatives with a Hidden Alarm.

4. Send those styrofoam packing peanuts flying with a Confetti Launcher.

5. Build a Band out of the box your new ski boots came in.

6. Create a super tall High Rise tower from an empty wrapping paper roll.
7. Sweat off those holiday treats and get your family moving with Dance Pad Mania.

8. Take down decorations from hard-to-reach places with a Helping Hand.
9.
 Watch the ball drop... all the way down a Zip Line.
10. Super-size any one of our activities!
Adam2.pngGrowing up, Design Squad Nation co-host Adam Vollmer wanted to be an astronaut, a LEGO® engineer (before he even knew what an engineer was), or... a dinosaur hunter. Thanks to his mechanical engineering degree, he's been able to do most of these things and much more.

"I played with LEGOs all the way up through grad school. I worked with NASA during the filming of Design Squad Nation. But I'm still on the lookout for dinosaurs. I hope to find one soon." (We'll be on the lookout too, Adam.)

He can make a mean tower out of plastic bricks, but Adam's also worked in biotechnology, designed micro electro-mechanical devices, programmed (and driven) semi-trucks, and built parts for one of the world's biggest physics experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He now works as a mechanical engineer at IDEO, the international design and innovation firm in Palo Alto, CA. (No, you're not having déjà vu. Adam's DSN co-host, Judy, works there, too!)  

When he's not riding his own handmade bicycle, climbing up a mountain, or exploring new corners of the world, Adam helps kids dream it, build it, and live it on Design Squad Nation.
And as co-host of Design Squad Nation, she's helping kids dream it, build it, and live it. Meet engineer, Judy Lee.
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As a kid, Judy loved taking things apart to see how they worked. That love eventually led to a mechanical engineering degree and a range of cool projects. Judy has designed children's toys, created medical devices, and developed systems to provide clean drinking water where there was none.

Impressive, yes? We wish we could take all the credit for finding her, but before she landed this sweet DSN gig, Judy was already a star. (Check out her profile for Engineer Your Life, an awesome initiative to get high school girls interested in engineering.) Judy will also soon be featured in NOVA's online series, Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, as was another Design Squad hero who may look familiar...

Judy now has her dream job, working as a product designer at IDEO, an international design and innovation firm in Palo Alto, CA. When she's not on-air brainstorming and building, Judy can be found in San Francisco remodeling her new home, growing fresh fruits and veggies in her garden, riding a big wheel down the nation's windiest street, or playing with her pug, Rosie.
Event season, that is. We're gearing up for some big events in 2011, and I'm thinking you may be, too. Well, big events need big activities. Enter Pop Fly: SUPER SIZED!


Our Engineering Advisor, Zoz, used wood planks and surgical tubing to make this giant Pop Fly.


By far our most popular activity at events, the table-top version of Pop Fly has kids use paint stirrers, a wooden spool, tape, and their feet (!) to send a Ping-Pong ball flying into the air. I mean really, is there a more exciting way to learn about simple machines and levers?

If you have an event on the calendar, big or small, consider giving Pop Fly a try. It's sure to be a hit at any size! And if you want to see the giant Pop Fly in person, join us at these events:

Jan. 15: Design Squad Nation Family Day, New York Hall of Science, NY
Feb. 19: Discover Engineering Family Day, National Building Museum, DC
Feb. 26: Design Squad Nation Ingenuity Day, Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, CA

Hope to see you there!
Really, we did! And this just might be the most exciting thing to happen around here since we got our own category on Teen Jeopardy! Naturally, I just couldn't wait to blog about it.

MaryAnn, one of three Grand Prize winners of our 2010 Trash to Treasure Competition, was invited to bring her water-conserving "Smarter Toiler" to the White House Science Fair. The event celebrated the winners of STEM competitions from around the country.

MaryAnn met all kinds of cool, interesting, and important people--including President Obama! She shook his hand and even got his signature on her school excuse note. Now that's some clever thinkin', MaryAnn.

Here, she gives Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute, a closer look at the Smarter Toilet.

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Do your kids participate in science and engineering competitions? Although their inventions may not end up in the East Wing of the White House, their experiences can be just as rewarding. They'll be challenged to make personal connections to their work--outside of the classroom--and just might see that they really can make a difference in the world.

So look for opportunities to get your kids involved. You never know where they may take them!

What's with all the changes around here, anyway?

Yes, we've got a new name and a new logo, and a few new other things (new web site, new show, new hosts, new blog...) But don't fret, die-hard Design Squad fans, we're not ALL new... more like "new and improved!"

We've still got the same great resources, but they're better organized and more robust. We're still producing a high-energy, challenge-based television show, but it showcases engineering in the real world (sorry reality competition junkies, but we think you'll love this, too). And most importantly, we've still got the same driving goal: Showing how with engineering, you can be creative, solve problems, and change the world.

So watch a sneak peak of the new show and let us know what you think of all things new and improved.

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With the launch of Design Squad Nation, our blog is up and running!

We're here to build a community and we're excited to offer you this space to find resources, share ideas, and engage with us. We want to get kids excited about engineering and we want you to, too.

So stay tuned, spread the word, and visit often. Educators, this blog's for you!