- Simple Machines
The Design Process
Click on each step to navigate through the design process.
If your kids brainstormed well, they wrote down every idea they had, no matter how wild. But now it's time to get realistic, choose the best solution, and then plan how it will be built.
How to Lead Your Kids
You can help kids narrow down their ideas and select one or two to explore further by talking through their solutions. Have them think about which ideas best address the problem, and which are possible given their time and materials.
Then, have kids sketch their top ideas on paper before they build. Sketches are a great tool to help them:
- Refine their ideas.
- Work out proportions or measurements.
- Decide how materials will be used.
- Make sure their ideas can be turned into a realistic plan.
Key Questions to Ask Your Kids
To help kids narrow down a long list of brainstormed ideas to a few workable solutions, ask them:
- What goals are you trying to achieve?
- How might this idea look on paper?
- Do you have enough time to build this design?
- Do you have materials that can work with this design?
Watch and Learn
Gravity Bikes: The DESIGN SQUAD teams are challenged to build gravity bikes for a champion racer—stripped-down bikes without pedals or chains that depend on gravity for speed. The Green team wants to build a new bike frame from scratch rather than modify an existing frame. How do they turn their idea into a plan? Write down your thoughts in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB).
What Happened? The Green team uses sketches to figure out the dimensions of their bike frame, and what materials they can use to build it. One team member wants to jump ahead, asking, "What's the point of the drawing?" When he tries to start building, his teammate warns, "You're getting too far ahead. We haven't figured out the rest of the dimensions and you want to start cutting."
Leader Tip: You may need to explain to your kids why it's necessary to have a plan before they begin to build. A plan keeps you on track and can help you avoid mistakes—"measure twice, cut once."
Review and Reflect
How can you help your kids choose their best idea and get ready to build it? Talk through their ideas to determine what's reasonable given the goal, time, and materials. Then have kids sketch their ideas to develop a building plan. Expect that some will want to jump ahead. In your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB), write down ways to help your kids understand the value of designing before building.
Try Heavy Lifting with your kids—have them design a crane that can lift a heavy load.
Get more resources from On the Moon, the NASA/DESIGN SQUAD Activity Guide.