Review by Common Sense Editor, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2012

Design Squad Nation

Classmates can compete to solve fun engineering problems

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (14 Reviews)

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Pros: Highly interactive resources drive home the skills and processes of engineering and design.

Cons: Episodes and games use Adobe Flash and will not work on iOS devices.

Bottom Line: Design Squad Nation makes engineering fun through hands-on activities and easy-to-understand scientific explanations.

Design Squad Nation is a highly engaging and effective way to teach kids to develop complex and original solutions to engineering problems. Teachers can start projects in the classroom and send kids home to finish them. The challenges are the best part of the site; they put learning in kids' hands and give teachers a way to connect the TV episodes to meaningful classroom experiences. For example, kids can earn recognition for creating the best bridge made of pennies or the farthest-traveling balloon-powered race car. The competitive aspect encourages creativity.

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The Design Squad Nation website complements the PBS Kids television show "Design Squad," in which teenagers compete to create the most novel solutions to engineering challenges. The competitive aspect of activities, along with video demonstration of the brainstorming and prototyping that go into design, make the website a great learning tool for kids. All episodes from the show include closed captioning.

On the top navigation, kids can choose from Watch, Build, Share, Games, or Top Builder. The Watch section features "Design Squad" TV episodes, tagged by topic, along with videos that explore the science of everyday items like bicycle gears. The Build section includes ideas for hands-on projects that kids can complete with adult supervision, as well as links to related videos and a contact form to reach the stars of the show. In Share, kids can post design ideas and drawings in response to a range of questions like, "What would you build for the outdoors?" The Games section lets kids play interactive games that teach engineering concepts; kids don't need accounts unless they want to save and share their scores. Top Builder shows current and past design challenges.

High-quality, engineering-related games present interactive ways for kids to explore the problem-solving process. Kids with a wide range of reading and math skills will find games fun and engaging and, in addition to critical-thinking skills, may develop some math and science learning along the way.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Video episodes grab kids' attention, and games teach engineering concepts through practice.  At-home activities and challenges extend the learning offline.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

TV episodes that show the scientific process of brainstorming and prototyping combined with hands-on activities makes for a powerful way to learn. Students can participate in at-home design challenges, as well.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site provides extensive support, and games include audio instructions. All episodes have closed captioning, and step-by-step instructions make the home activities easy to complete.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Pat D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Falcon Creek Middle School
Aurora, CO
Great STEM resource!
Love what I have seen and I am excited to implement some of the lessons and ideas I have seen into my lessons and curriculum. Implementing STEM has been fun and I enjoy looking for new and exciting websites. This website fits right into what I do but provides new aspects to my teaching.
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