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Icon for: Saranya Sathananthan


WGBH Educational Foundation

Design Squad Global

NSF Awards: 1422236

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

Design Squad Global (DSG) is a web-based, mobile-accessible digital hub and outreach initiative that is creating new opportunities to empower middle school youth to solve real-world problems and understand the impact of engineering in a global context. DSG Clubs connect kids ages 10-13 in out-of-school time programs around the world through fun-packed, high-energy, hands-on activities such as designing and building an emergency shelter or a structure that can withstand an earthquake. Through DSG, kids also get a special opportunity: the chance to work alongside a partner club from another country. Partner clubs share their experiences by exchanging design ideas, photos, and videos. Along the way, they develop their global competency by learning more about each other’s cultures, communities, and lives. A 6 and 12-week Club Guide and supports for educators were developed during two pilot rounds of testing at 14 afterschool programs in the US, Botswana, Swaziland, and South Africa. Researchers found that DSG had a significant, measurable impact on students’ understanding of engineering and how engineering can make a positive difference in the world; their motivation for participating in engineering activities; their interest in people and places around the globe; and their confidence that they can solve problems and create change. DSG is building broader knowledge about how to develop engineering resources and the outreach process needed to work collaboratively across cultures. It is also contributing to a larger body of work about whether and how engaging with global, collaborative engineering problems leads to greater self-efficacy for children with very different backgrounds and opportunities.

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Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase (11 posts)
  • Icon for: Jeanne Century

    Jeanne Century

    DIrector of Research & Evaluation and Research Associate Professor
    May 14, 2018 | 12:01 p.m.

    Hi Saranya - 

    It's very exciting to hear about the ways you are facilitating connections between youth across the world. I'd love to know more about how they interact with one another; how they share their work and communicate. I went to your website, but I didn't readily see information about that. 


  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 15, 2018 | 01:42 p.m.

    I love the service-design thread.  As the network expands, are language issues surfacing? I would imagine also that in some cases, immigrant kids here could act as bridges between their current classmates, and the kids overseas still living in their former home. 

      I like the excitement in the eyes and voices of the people telling the story!


  • Icon for: Saranya Sathananthan

    Saranya Sathananthan

    Lead Presenter
    Outreach Project Manager
    May 17, 2018 | 09:26 a.m.

    Hi Brian, 

    Thank you for the kind comments! As a global project, language has the potential to be a significant barrier, but with Design Squad Global, kids and educators around the world have grown in their confidence being able to practice their English with their US partners. We've seen exactly the kind of thing that you mentioned regarding students acting as bridges between their current classmates and peers overseas -- in one instance a few of kids whose families are from Arabic-speaking countries were able to help facilitate a virtual exchange session between their US-based classmates and their partner club in Jordan!

    Because we also know how important it is to be able to facilitate activities with kids in their home language, we have also translated the Design Squad Global Club Guides into Arabic and Vietnamese and hope to be able to translate the Club Guide into Spanish for use in the US and Latin America soon. 

  • Icon for: Jan Heiderer

    Jan Heiderer

    Communications Coordinator, GLOBE Implementation Office
    May 16, 2018 | 09:37 a.m.

    Thisi is a wonderful project and a great video! It really conveys the passion in students and their teacher/mentors.

  • Icon for: Saranya Sathananthan

    Saranya Sathananthan

    Lead Presenter
    Outreach Project Manager
    May 17, 2018 | 09:15 a.m.

    Hi Jan, 

    Thank you for the generous comments! We find that informal educators such as out-of-school time youth leaders, librarians, and home school parents, find the materials so easy to use and create a lot of fun and engagement with the groups they've used them with. 

  • Icon for: Levi Patrick

    Levi Patrick

    Assistant Executive Director
    May 16, 2018 | 06:55 p.m.

    So great! It continues to be important that our students develop familiarity with the people with which they inhabit this world. How else can we become empathetic and aware of how our behaviors impact the world beyond our neighborhood? 

    I wonder if you can share how the project is or plans to evaluate the impact on disciplinary learning of the STEM subjects? Also, do you have a set of design principle for the lessons/challenges you use? I'd love to learn more!

  • Icon for: Saranya Sathananthan

    Saranya Sathananthan

    Lead Presenter
    Outreach Project Manager
    May 17, 2018 | 09:12 a.m.

    Hi Levi, 

    Thank you for your insightful comments. I couldn't agree more! 

    The project has been evaluating the impact Design Squad Global has had in helping children learn creative problem solving, the design process, science and engineering concepts in context, global competency, and teamwork, listening, and sharing. You can learn more about the impact the project is having from this summative evaluation report that was recently published: http://www.informalscience.org/design-squad-glo...

    And you're right! Every session in the Design Squad Global Club Guide, follows the design process. The science and engineering principles and global competency builders are grounded in the design process framework. 



  • Icon for: Eric Hamilton

    Eric Hamilton

    May 17, 2018 | 07:29 a.m.

    Saranya, would you be interested in discussing possible connections?  Our presentation  seems to share many interests and priorities with you.  Our African connections are in both Namibia and Kenya, though we have tried to make connections in RSA.  You have a great project; let me know if you would like to discuss some potential connections.  Thank you.

  • Icon for: Saranya Sathananthan

    Saranya Sathananthan

    Lead Presenter
    Outreach Project Manager
    May 17, 2018 | 08:53 a.m.

    Hi Eric, 

    Thank you for your praises! We have had several educators implement Design Squad Global clubs in South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, and Swaziland, and are always looking for ways to get the program materials into the hands of educators everywhere. Just this week, we held a virtual connection for middle school youth between a school in Boston, MA and another in Nairobi, Kenya around how they could design engineering solutions to problems they see in their communities. Students brainstormed ideas together, worked in small groups to come up with designs, presented their plans to one another, and gave each other constructive feedback. We would love to explore ways to collaborate with your project. Thank you for reaching out! 

  • Icon for: Pablo Bendiksen

    Pablo Bendiksen

    Research Assistant
    May 17, 2018 | 02:29 p.m.

    What a wonderful and fun project, Saranya! I like hearing about how kids get excited to brainstorm together and present engineering solutions to each other. How do you work with shy children who might have difficulties engaging in video conferences and presentations? Good job by the way.


  • Icon for: Amanda Urey

    Amanda Urey

    K-12 Teacher
    May 17, 2018 | 09:22 p.m.

     This is a fantastic project. I love how students are making connections across the globe through STEM content. I was wondering if students are simply designing these products, or are they also given the opportunities and materials to build and test their designs? 

    It would be really cool for one class to propose a "design challenge" to another. Each class would complete the design, creation, and product testing. Once they feel they have achieved a functional product that will meet the other classes needs, they could ship it to them.

    There are so many amazing ways this project can be extended. Great work!

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.