If you know a budding engineer, here’s something you might want to take note of. A new PBS TV show called Design Squad Nation targets `tweens, teens and their families with a new series designed to showcase the power of engineering. The show, which premieres on Jan. 26, 2011, addresses the need for education around engineering, showing examples of kids applying science, math and technology to solve real-world problems.
The show, which will run for over 10 episodes, features engineer co-hosts Judy Lee and Adam Vollmer, who will travel across the country and around the world, helping kids take their passion, combine it with engineering and turn their dreams into reality. In one episode, the engineering hosts help an aspiring baker build a Frankenstein cake with real moving parts, while the series premiere chronicles the engineering adventures of a group of skateboarding teens from an Arizona Apache Reservation, who get a hand constructing a skateboarding park.
There is a corresponding Web site where kids can work alongside co-hosts Lee and Vollmer, posting solutions to real-life problems and responding to challenges from the show by sketching and building their own prototypes. Already, more than 12,000 kids are engaged in the online community.
The co-hosts boast a pedigree meant to impress would-be engineers. Lee has a mechanical engineering degree from North Carolina State University and has worked on a range of projects–from designing children’s toys to creating medical devices to providing clean water to slums in Kenya. Lee now works as a product designer at IDEO, an international design and innovation firm in Palo Alto, CA. Co-host Vollmer has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford and a M.S. from MIT. He is also a mechanical engineer at IDEO, having worked in biotech, designed micro electro-mechanical devices, programmed (and driven) semi-trucks and built parts for the one of the world’s biggest physics experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
I know my 13-year old is always talking up some kind of innovation–some of his favorites: A chairlift that spins around so the rider can view the mountain vistas during the ride up or a system that can create clean water. I can only imagine how inspiring it will be for him to actually watch real engineers help other kids with creative dreams turn their ideas into reality.