Parents, Educators & Engineers

Program Viewing Tips for Parents

You can encourage your child to use DESIGN SQUAD NATION, a PBS television show that gets real kids thinking like real engineers, as a springboard for trying engineering challenges. DESIGN SQUAD NATION features two professional engineers who work with kids across the world to make their wishes come true through engineering. In DESIGN SQUAD NATION challenges, kids experience what makes engineering so exciting and empowering as they use their ingenuity and work to solve problems.

image mapping iterative design process

Before you watch DESIGN SQUAD NATION:

Introduce the design process to your kids.

The Design Process

When engineers set out to solve a problem, their first solution is rarely their best. Instead, they tinker, try different ideas, fail, learn from mistakes, and try again. The series of steps engineers use to arrive at a solution is called the design process.

You can approach almost any problem using the steps of the design process—it's a great way to come up with lots of ideas, improve a design, and learn from mistakes. In fact, the design process is something people use every day—planning an outing, writing a letter, making breakfast, or doing any task where they create something that did not exist before.

As you watch DESIGN SQUAD NATION:

  • Tape the episode or watch it online. This way you can stop the show periodically to discuss what is happening and ask kids how they might respond in a similar situation. Visit Episode Descriptions for a current list of available episodes.
  • Have kids think about the challenges that Judy, Adam, and the kids face in the episode. Explore how they might approach the problem themselves.
  • Discuss how Judy, Adam, and the kids work together, learn from one another, and support each other during a challenge. How does their attitude help them to overcome their obstacles or anxieties? Ask what kind of support has helped your kids continue in challenging situations.

After you watch DESIGN SQUAD NATION:

  • Encourage kids to think about how the challenges relate to their own interests and how they might challenge themselves in new and interesting ways.
  • After your kids take part in a challenge, recognize the value of participation and teamwork, no matter how well they did. Identify what was learned during the experience and celebrate it.
  • Do challenges at home. Find fun, engaging hands-on activities on the DESIGN SQUAD NATION Web site.
  • Reinforce the design process with your kids as they progress through a challenge.
    • Engineers communicate visually as well as verbally. Have kids keep design notebooks to record and sketch their ideas and to keep track of what worked and didn't work.
    • When something fails, encourage kids to try again. They will come up with lots of interesting solutions and will learn from their mistakes.
    • Avoid giving too much direction; it discourages kids from thinking for themselves. Answer questions by asking a question back to allow kids to find their own way to the answer.

Watch behind-the-scenes blog videos online:

Watch Judy and Adam's video blog to get closer to the action. These short videos will show the successes and failures that are a natural part of the design process. Discuss how Adam, Judy, and the kids responded to failures and ask kids how they might handle a similar situation.

Watch Video Profiles online:

Watch short video clips of real engineers from the original DESIGN SQUAD episodes. These clips will dispel the "I can't do that" stereotype and replace it with "That's engineering? I want to do that." Discuss the different types of engineering shown in the video clips and ask kids if they could see themselves doing a similar job as an adult.