Design Squad Makes Engineering Fun

For some time, I’ve been talking about how to make science and technology curricula female-friendly. One important way is to focus upfront on how science and technology can be applied.

Photo by Ken Maschke

Photo: Ken Maschke

PBS’ Design Squad does just that. Overall, this television program does a good job of presenting gender-balanced, racially diverse kids participating in real life design challenges and competitions, with the winner getting a college scholarship. The show’s website offers educators guidance on using Design Squad materials in the classroom.

Joanna Trombley is Chair of the West Chester (PA) Area School District Technology and Engineering Education Department.  She used Design Squad’s dance pad activity for a sixth grade class project on electronics. According to Joanne, “These activities let you take the key electricity/electronic concepts and apply them to solve problems.” Of course, anything related to dance, in particular, will likely appeal to many girls.  This video shows the illuminating class project in action.

Do you know any engineering and technology activities of special interest to female students? Leave a comment with your suggestion and share it with others in the community!

And for more on female-friendly science and technologies, take a look at my article, “Gender Differences in Learning Style Specific to Science, Math, Engineering and Technology (SMET).

6 Responses to “Design Squad Makes Engineering Fun”

  1. Jamie Salcedo  on September 18th, 2012

    I went to get a degree in a school that was 60% men. If creating a dance pad can make it so that it becomes 50/50, all the more power to them.

  2. Joshua Leach  on September 16th, 2010

    What a great idea! I think a balance of the sexes in technology and science is a great strength to have. I hope more programs are developed to help keep the youth interested in sciences. I want us the embrace the best parts about us humans and continually enlarge our capacity for high level science and design.
    Joshua Leach
    Dod Consulting

  3. Jonny Diablo  on August 21st, 2010

    Thanks. Good article.

  4. Donna Milgram  on May 11th, 2010

    I am fascinated by your work which I have been following. The example you give where you changed a traditional class assignment scenario with building a cabin for fun to building shelter in Haiti and the difference it had in engaging your female (and Hispanic male) students (based on an anonymous student survey you provide the end of each semester), underscores in my mind the importance of paying attention to curriculum appealing to ALL students. I would encourage you to publish on your “cool thing” versus “solve a need” data. This information is greatly needed by those of us trying to change the picture of STEM.

  5. Margaret S. Lee  on May 11th, 2010

    In my experience as a female educator teaching engineering and incorporating a lot of experiential learning-based, open-ended design problems in a variety of courses, any project where the point is to *solve a need* (particularly a people-focused need) strongly excites and energizes all females and male Hispanics. Any project where the point is to create a cool
    *thing* strongly attracts white males. It’s a subtle but crucial difference in the how you present the project, it’s goal, grading, etc.
    This is not a generalization or suposition on my part, it is the result of 22 terms worth of collected data from student self-reporting on “soft” measures such as enjoyment from a class project, self-confirmation that they have made the “right” career choice for them, etc.

  6. David Meredith  on May 6th, 2010

    One successful program that I ran several times was our “Passion for Fashion” fashion show. Our middle school models wore non-traditional (for females) technical outfits such as – firefighter, haz-mat suit, race car driver, hockey goalie, bunny suit (for clean room), high steel contractor, coal miner, and school mascot (Nittany Lion). The right clothing to protect workers is very high tech. And the girls see that their favorite “hobby” might turn into a real career that helps people by keeping them safe.

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