Design Squad


“I know that I’m a better teacher now that we have Design Squad in our curriculum. It just opened their minds and opened their world to what learning is all about.”

-- Scott Kutz, teacher, Westlake High School, Westlake, Ohio

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Hands on/Project-Based
Informal /Out of School

Target Audience

All Students

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Grades 6 - 8

 Accomplished link

Program Impact

DESIGN SQUAD has exposed millions of middle school youth to hands-on engineering challenges through its Emmy and Peabody Award-Winnning PBS television show and its interactive website. In addition, it has reached more than 250,000 engineers, educators, children and families across the country through face-to-face training and events. Research shows that these programs strengthen students' grasp of engineering concepts while boosting their enthusiasm for engineering.


Program Overview

DESIGN SQUAD is a multimedia program for middle school-aged children that includes television episodes broadcast nationally on PBS, an interactive website, and hands-on engineering activities.

Designed to increase children's awareness and understanding of engineering, the television series follows two teams of teens as they design and build projects for real world clients. Its spin-off television series, DESIGN SQUAD NATION, showcases engineer co-hosts as they travel across the country, working side by side with teens to turn their dreams into reality through engineering. Online, DESIGN SQUAD provides children with a forum to brainstorm, submit project ideas, and respond to the ideas of others through sketches and prototypes. And offline, DESIGN SQUAD's 40 hands-on engineering activities enable children to exercise their own design skills, teaching them how to think like engineers.

How To Get Involved

There are many opportunities to help DESIGN SQUAD to expand its reach. With sufficient funds over the next three years, for example, DESIGN SQUAD could prepare 125 master trainers to prepare 4,500 youth leaders who in turn would reach more than 65,000 children with exciting, hands-on learning opportunities in engineering. The cost of this training could amount to roughly $1.3 million, or about $20 per child.

Funders and Partners

Design Squad has formal partnerships with 90 engineering and education organizations. The project has forged strategic partnerships with seven of these organizations: Project Lead the Way, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Engineers Week Foundation, National Girls Collaborative Project, FIRST, International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, and Association of Science-Technology Centers.

Current funding for the project is as follows. Major funding is provided by the National Science Foundation. Project funding is provided by Northrop Grumman Foundation and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Additional funding is provided by United Engineering Foundation (ASCE, ASME, AIChE, IEEE, AIME).


Marisa Wolsky, Executive Producer

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Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.