- Simple Machines
The Design Process
Click on each step to navigate through the design process.
Identify the Problem
It's simple, it's quick, but identifying the problem is often the most overlooked stage of the design process. To start off on the right foot, kids need a clear explanation of the activity they're about to engage in. Understanding the problem paves the way for solving it.
How to Lead Your Kids
When you introduce the activity, spend a few minutes helping kids understand what they're trying to accomplish:
- Explain what the activity is about.
- Ask them who might benefit from their work.
- Review any rules or restrictions.
- Ask kids to describe the activity in their own words.
Key Questions to Ask Your Kids
Here are questions to ask kids at the beginning of an activity:
- What is the goal of the activity?
- Can you imagine how someone could use what you're going to design? How would it help them?
- Are there any special requirements for the activity? For example, are you only allowed to use certain types of materials?
- How will you know if you've been successful?
Watch and Learn
Cardboard Furniture: The DESIGN SQUAD teams are challenged to create furniture for the home goods superstore IKEA—it must be innovative, functional, and made out of recycled cardboard. Can you identify the two strategies used by Nate, the DESIGN SQUAD host, to help the teams absorb the important points of the challenge? Write them in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB).
What Happened? Nate summarized the challenge for the teams and then asked if they had questions—two very simple but effective ways to introduce an activity.
Review and Reflect
What are strategies you can use to get your kids off and running in the right direction? Jot down a few ideas in your workshop notepad (PDF, 204KB) about ways you can both introduce your kids to an activity and check their understanding of the challenge.
Try Roving on the Moon with your kids. Start by identifying the problem, which is to build a rubber band–powered rover that can scramble across the room.
Get more resources from On the Moon, the NASA/DESIGN SQUAD Activity Guide.