- Simple Machines
The Design Process
Click on each step to navigate through the design process.
Build, Test, Evaluate, and Redesign
Once kids come up with a design, it's time to build it, test it, and redesign it to make it better.
How to Lead Your Kids
When they decide on a plan for their design, your kids are ready to build. Provide the materials and tools they'll need and watch them go! But it doesn't stop there—the only way for kids to know if their design works is to test it. If it doesn't work or needs improvement, it's time to redesign. Have kids follow these steps:
- Build your design.
- Test it out.
- Evaluate it. Think about what works and what could work better.
- Redesign it. Make improvements.
These steps can be repeated until kids are satisfied with their results.
Key Questions to Ask Your Kids
To help kids evaluate their designs and determine how to improve them, ask:
- Does your design meet the goal of the challenge? How?
- Why do you sometimes have to do something a few times before it works the way you want?
- What can you learn from looking at other kids' projects?
Watch and Learn
Hockey Net Target: The DESIGN SQUAD teams are challenged to build remote-controlled hockey net targets for the Boston Bruins. The Green team has constructed a target with small, steel doors, and Nate arrives to test it out. How does the test go? What does the team do after testing? How does Nate help direct their next steps? Write down your answers in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB).
What Happened? The test goes well, and Nate has fun shooting at the target. But the team's not finished yet—they still need to attach the target to the net. They share their plan with Nate, who suggests there might be a simpler option.
Leader Tip: Like Nate, you'll also be able to offer your kids advice if you've tried the activity at least once on your own. You'll then be able to draw on your own experience and anticipate where your kids might get stuck or need guidance. That's also a good time to familiarize yourself with any science or math concepts that apply to the activity—most activity guides include helpful explanations.
More About Testing and Redesigning
Sometimes the first test is successful—but often it's not. Check out another DESIGN SQUAD clip in which the team's design fails and needs rethinking.
Watch and Learn
No Crying in Baseball: The DESIGN SQUAD teams are challenged to build an onion dispenser for a hot dog vendor at a baseball stadium. The Green team's design uses a plunging motion to push out the onions. When they test the plunger, what's the outcome? Write down your thoughts in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB).
What Happened? When the Green team tests their plunger, they're not happy with the results—it delivers a different amount of onions each time and is "a surprise every plunge." It's time for the team to redesign and make improvements.
Leader Tip: If your kids experience failure while testing, you can assure them that this is just a normal part of the design process. In fact, the DESIGN SQUAD motto is fail fast, succeed sooner.
Review and Reflect
As your kids work on a design challenge, it's important to welcome a range of ideas but to also provide them with direction when needed. What are some techniques for tactfully directing your kids toward better design solutions? Jot down your thoughts in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB).
Designs don't always work. Help your kids understand that trial and error is a great way to learn. Reinforce the idea that failure offers an opportunity for improvement—it's what makes their designs better and better each time. In your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB), jot down ways you can keep your kids from getting discouraged if their designs don't work on the first few tries.
Try On Target with your kids to build a zip-line carrier for a marble. They'll test the carrying system and improve it based on the results.
Get more resources from On the Moon, the NASA/DESIGN SQUAD Activity Guide.