Design It! Series

Bright and colorful, these books introduce children to machines, materials and structures, letting them become the "design engineer" as they play with and test models they build themselves. My favorite is Build It!, which explores building structures like shapes, beams, bridges, domes, collapsible structures, pop-ups, packaging, and containers. Each two-page spread contains a mix of hands-on activities and information, along with bright, bold, computer-generated graphics of the models they'll build and test. In the pages on beams, readers are asked to build a variety of beams in different shapes, using 8 ½" x 11" sheets of paper and tape. The second page suggests that they try their different beams by stretching them across two piles of books and testing their strength with weights. A "Getting Ideas" section at the end of the activity suggests trying some combinations of shapes together, or making an I-beam. While Build It! focuses on structures, Gear Up! introduces readers to machines and their parts, including levers, linkages, crankshafts, cams, conveyor belts and pulleys. Shape It! explores materials and the way they can be shaped, particularly using molding and casting. Prepare to use lots of modeling clay in this book! A great source of creative problem-solving and engineering activities at the elementary level. 32 pgs, pb. - Jess

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