Science, engineering for kids offered online by Newport grad

Nate Ball livestreams builds of various oddities on his Facebook page, which families can follow along with at home or replicate later. Pictured above: Ball's kids in a home-engineered spacecraft. (Courtesy photos)

Newport’s own Nate Ball has a plan to keep kids creative during quarantine.

Ball is an engineer, award-winning inventor and the host of the PBS Kids program “Design Squad,” which showed kids how engineering can be fun and done right at home. Today, he continues his educational camera career in addition to managing his company on the east coast.

“I’ve been doing educational TV for a long time,” said Ball, “and all of it, in terms of my involvement, has been around showing cool stuff that engineering can do, and especially, fun things you can do at home that employ engineering skills.”

Now, Ball is taking his passion for the subject to a new medium: Facebook. Through the live streaming feature, Ball is sharing what it’s like to build new designs in real-time — and showing the roadblocks along the way.

“I’m pretty much building stuff with our kids at home all the time anyway, because it’s just what we like to do,” said Ball. He said that when the virus hit, schools were let out and plans were canceled, he thought, “what a perfect time to get creative at home with your kids.”

He started a live show the same week, doing live shows daily — moving forward, he’s planning to keep up posting daily but only host the live shows on Thursdays. The videos stay up after the build is over, but the interactive part is less immediate — but still there and deeply appreciated by Ball.

Ball said he tries to make sure that the builds can be done with regular items that parents would likely have at home already. A few of the builds featured on the show include stomp rockets, rubber band dragsters and a balloon car.

“It’s some of my favorite projects from my childhood growing up and some of the things we’ve enjoyed most in our family,” said Ball.

“What I love about these kinds of projects is anybody can do them,” said Ball. “It just takes a little bit of creativity and, to me, it provides a really wonderful way to introduce people to hands-on projects. And for people who are already used to them, you can take them as far as you want to go.”

But Ball said his favorite part of the shows so far is the community aspect.

“It feels good to be back in the home state,” said Ball, “and I’ve really enjoyed that a number of the viewers have been friends from growing up and people that have been tracking ‘Design Squad’ for some time … and a few people have been messaging me afterward with pictures and videos of their version of the build at home.”

Those interested can find all of Ball’s videos and other content on Facebook at Live shows air at 1 p.m. on Thursdays.


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