App Review
Cargo-Bot

Challenging game helps kids learn to think like programmers

  • Kids drag programming commands into place to direct the robotic arm in moving the crates to match the goal at the top of the screen.

  • The six-puzzle tutorial introduces kids to the commands, and the five levels challenge them with six puzzles each.

  • In the tutorial, kids learn programming concepts like procedural abstractions, recursion, subroutines, and conditional statements.

  • Kids earn one, two, or three stars for completing the level, getting more stars for more concise, precise programs.

  • When the program goes wrong, the robotic arm crashes into a wall and falls apart. Kids can replay the level, though.

Quick Take
Pros: Kids learn a full-range of programming skills in a fun, engrossing game that also demonstrates what they can create themselves using the skills they're learning.
Cons: Though the minimal hints do force kids to figure out solutions on their own, some kids may feel defeated by the challenge and give up.
Bottom Line: Cargo-Bot is a simple concept that packs a challenging punch and teaches valuable programming skills.
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The straightforward challenge will engage kids, and the opportunity to make their programs better and achieve a higher score will keep them engaged.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

The step-by-step logic that teaches kids to tackle a bigger problem by breaking it into steps will build better programmers and also help kids in many tasks and subject areas.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

There is no hand-holding here, even in the hints. Kids are shown how to do a task, but they have to figure out how to apply the tools.

Our Review
What's It Like?

Kids playing Cargo-Bot write programs to control a robotic arm, having the robot move crates into the configuration shown on the top of the screen. Kids can work through a six-level tutorial first to get familiar with the controls and features (even the tutorial is challenging!). They can then move on to the five levels of play -- easy, medium, hard, crazy, and impossible -- with six puzzles each. The goal is not only to get the crates moved but to move them in as few programming steps as possible. A misstep crashes the crane into a wall, destroying it, but kids get unlimited chances to solve each puzzle and can replay for a higher score.

Is It Good For Learning?

The concept is simple -- direct a robotic arm to move crates to a designated spot -- but young programmers will find the implementation quite challenging. And just like in coding, a working solution may not be the optimal solution. Scores depend on how concisely the program runs. Since kids can replay each level, they are empowered to take chances and to try multiple solutions -- even when they've had a successful one -- to find the best solution. Cargo-Bot encourages the kind of innovative thinking necessary for the digital age as it introduces kids to programming skills.

Kids can learn hands-on programming skills as they drag and drop directions into place to make the robotic arm move and do what they tell it to. They'll learn the gist of programming concepts like procedural abstraction, subroutines, looping constructs, and conditional programming without having to master the lingo or detailed syntax of code. Kids will practice tackling a big problem by breaking it down into smaller problems to solve, a foundation of writing good code.

How Can Teachers Use It?

Use Cargo-bot to bring STEM into the classroom. Have a programmer talk to kids about careers in computer programming as well as the importance of each step of the coding process and how the game relates. Once kids have mastered the concepts, encourage them to write their own programs using tools available on the iPad, like Codea, or online, like Scratch.

This review of Cargo-Bot was written by

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