- Simple Machines
The Design Process
Click on each step to navigate through the design process.
Once kids understand the challenge, it's time to start brainstorming. Have kids think about solutions and come up with as many ideas as possible. Brainstorming allows kids to think creatively without fear of criticism and helps them collaborate and build from each other's ideas.
How to Lead Your Kids
You can facilitate a whole-group brainstorm or have kids conduct their own in small groups. Brainstorming can be lively and productive if participants follow these three simple rules:
- Write down all ideas, no matter how wild. The more ideas, the better!
- Be creative and spontaneous. There are no wrong answers and lots of possible solutions.
- Work as a team and respect every idea. Everyone should participate.
Sometimes kids won't know where to start, or will want to move ahead with the first idea they think of, skipping the brainstorm all together. Here are a few strategies you can use to get their brainstorm going:
- Have kids examine the materials they'll be using.
- Suggest they do rough sketches to share their ideas.
- Provide books, photos, and Web sites—kids can use these for inspiration or to see what others have done.
Key Questions to Ask Your Kids
Guide your kids through brainstorming by asking these questions:
- What are some ways you can start tackling today's challenge?
- How many different ideas can you come up with?
- What materials will you be using? Do they give you any ideas?
Watch and Learn
Water Dancing: The DESIGN SQUAD teams are challenged to design specialized prostheses for Lisa Bufano, a dancer whose feet and fingers were amputated. Lisa wants prostheses she can use in an underwater
What Happened? The teams generated ideas by looking at photos, researching online, and examining their materials. Everyone chimed in with ideas, and they used a whiteboard to write them down.
More on Brainstorming
The video clip you just watched is one way brainstorming can look—when kids are thinking freely and working well together. But that's not always the case. Check out another DESIGN SQUAD clip in which things don't go quite as smoothly.
Watch and Learn
PVC Kayak: Alaska native Sean Gallagher challenges the teams to build kayaks using a traditional design but nontraditional materials. When one team member dominates the brainstorm, what does Nate do to get the rest of the team involved? Write down your thoughts in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB).
What Happened? When Nate notices the team quickly moving ahead with one person's idea, derailing the brainstorm, he encourages them to take more time and work together, saying, "You've got four brains in the mix. It's not Jason's team, it's the Green team."
Leader Tip: You may have to step in to ensure that all kids have a chance to get involved and that everyone's ideas are recognized. One way to do this is to have someone who doesn't usually participate serve as the leader of the brainstorm session.
Review and Reflect
How can you encourage your kids to generate a high-energy, free-flowing list of ideas? If your kids argue or criticize each other, what are some strategies you can try to help them get back on a positive, productive track? In your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB), write down ways you can ensure that all kids have a chance to participate and that everyone's ideas are recognized.
Try Launch It with your kids, and get them brainstorming a design for an air-powered rocket.
Get more resources from On the Moon, the NASA/DESIGN SQUAD Activity Guide.