yes logo
children working on a class project

Design Principles for Equity

YES resources engage children in authentic, hands-on engineering challenges that feature:

  • Real-world contexts. Students engage in real-world engineering challenges that expand their horizons while connecting to their home, communities, and cultures. Activities begin with narratives that engage students’ imagination and demonstrate how engineers design and shape our world by solving problems.
  • Role models. Students learn from diverse role models in context-setting narratives, videos, and their community. Each unit introduces engineering role models who reflect the diversity of individuals involved in engineering.
  • Socially engaged engineering. Students consider multiple perspectives and possible impacts of technologies. Each unit situates engineering in local, community, and global contexts.
  • Asset-based pedagogy. Activities prompt students to draw upon their prior knowledge and explore cultural and family connections and leverage these assets to improve their engineering solutions.
  • Open-ended problems with multiple solutions. Students draw on their experiences and strengths and celebrate creative, innovative thinking. Recognizing that an array of possible solutions exist encourages students to consider diverse approaches and evaluate how and for whom specific solutions work best.
  • Persistence, risk-taking, and productive failure. Students embrace the important role of failure and iteration in engineering. Activities model how to persist through and learn from unsuccessful attempts—a mindset that needs to be taught and cultivated in all learners.
  • Collaboration and teamwork. Students engineer in teams. By sharing ideas, data, and designs in small groups and class discussions, students benefit and learn from each other. Children also learn vital collaboration and negotiation skills. Interactive, collaborative environments can be more inviting for many students than those rooted in competition.
  • Scaffolds for youth work. Students of all ages and ability levels are provided with opportunities to meaningfully participate in activities. Previous familiarity with materials, tasks, or terminology is not assumed. Instead, embedded scaffolding activities develop necessary knowledge, skills, and tools.
  • Multimodal expression. Students express their ideas and knowledge in a variety of ways. These span speaking, writing, drawing, and demonstrating their knowledge.
  • Low-cost, commonly available materials. Activities use inexpensive, common materials to build the technologies. Because they are affordable and available, learners can continue their engineering explorations at home.

By engaging in relevant, authentic engineering work and practices, students develop engineering identities, seeing themselves as engineers with the mindset and ability to solve problems and change the world.

YES materials include language development scaffolds for English learners. Learn more »

Read more about design principles for equity:

Cunningham, C. M., & Lachapelle, C. P. (2014). Designing engineering experiences to engage all students. In S. Purzer, J. Strobel, & M. Cardella (Eds.), Engineering in pre-college settings: Synthesizing research, policy, and practices (pp. 117–142). Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

illustration of two children playing with a dog

YES Elementary lessons begin with comic stories



Youth Engineering Solutions educates the next generation of problem solvers and engineers by developing equitable, research-based, and classroom-tested preK-8 engineering and STEM curricula; preparing and empowering educators to teach engineering; and conducting rigorous research that informs K-12 engineering education.

Youth Engineering Solutions (YES)

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802