Cat Safety Invention: Promoting Informal Learning and Creative Problem-solving through Engineering Activities for Kids
NSF Award #: DRL-1422236
DESIGNSQUAD was created in response to a national imperative to attract more young people to inventing and engineering studies and careers. Previously a successful broadcast TV series, DESIGNSQUADNATION (DSN) is now an all-broadband experience on pbskids.org designed to help children develop an inventive spirit by encouraging their nascent skills, promoting creativity, and motivating them to think through a problem and then express their ideas. These goals are reflected in this video presentation in which Elliot, a kid engineer from DESIGNSQUAD, invents a vacuum-powered, motion-sensing machine that keeps his cat safe by keeping it from running out the front door.
The DSN Website serves as informal classroom. Stocked with entertaining videos, a chalkboard for creating new ideas, a safe space for sharing the fun of inventing, and a repository of hands-on engineering activities designed to help kids solve real-world problems with accessible materials, this online community has provided thousands of informal educators—many of whom have no formal training or experience with STEM—with the tools they need to help students develop their design process skills. Summative evaluation has shown that after using DESIGNSQUAD resources, informal educators’ comfort levels in talking to their students about engineering increased significantly (Veridian inSight, 2009).