App Review
TinkerBox

Fantastic physics puzzler puts a virtual maker faire in kids' hands

  • Kids create their own inventions from scratch or by tweaking existing inventions.

  • In the puzzles section, kids engineer solutions to the physics-based puzzles using the available tools.

  • When engineering their own invention, kids choose from a variety tools that serve different purposes.

  • A tutorial demonstrates each tool and ways to use it.

  • Kids can play in puzzles mode or invent mode to complete the physics puzzlers, create their own, or add to existing demos.

Quick Take
Pros: Several levels of puzzle challenges plus the option for kids to get creative make this an all-in-one teaching tool.
Cons: The industrial look of the inventions may not appeal to some kids.
Bottom Line: TinkerBox is a rich resource for kids to learn, practice, and apply physics and engineering principles.
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids interested in engineering will be drawn in, but some may be turned off by the industrial-looking design.

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

Kids will learn, practice, and apply knowledge through the different levels of puzzle and invention.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The help features and tutorials demonstrate each object, and kids can extend learning by visiting more demos on the developer's web site.

Our Review
What's It Like?

TinkerBox is part game, part creative outlet. Kids can work their way through the six levels of puzzles, each offering many stages, where they drag the right object into place to complete the physics puzzler -- think Rube Goldberg machines. Kids complete one level of puzzle to unlock the next level of increasing challenge. The training level demonstrates with lines and arrows to prepare kids for the challenges to come. They can also create their own inventions using the objects -- balls, bolts, chains, connectors, conveyer belts, fans, wheels, ropes, scissors, switches, wenches, and more. The app comes pre-loaded with several inventions, and kids can alter those inventions or study them for inspiration.

Is It Good For Learning?

TinkerBox is an impressive tool for kids interested in engineering. Either option -- the puzzles or the inventions -- alone is worth an investment, and TinkerBox includes both for a bargain. The physics of the higher levels get quite challenging, incorporating space gravity. The number of objects available for building is impressive, too. Kids are empowered to create the machines they want and can choose which objects will create the outcome they desire. They can also learn a bit of history about each tool as they learn how to effectively use it in the Elements Help section.

Unfortunately, the industrial appearance of the lab may turn off some students. Overall, though, TinkerBox is an all-in-one teaching tool. Kids learn the concepts through the tutorial. They practice in the puzzle section, and they apply their knowledge in the invention section. Scaffolding is built in since kids can load existing inventions and customize them.

How Can Teachers Use It?

Tinkering is hands-on problem-solving and creating, but it can get messy. Use TinkerBox to let kids tinker around, solve problems, and create without needing supplies or space to create. Of course, some ideas could still come to life after kids work them through them virtually.

This review of TinkerBox was written by

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