Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2013
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Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics

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Kids explore concepts in fun but sometimes frustrating mini-games

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: It's a free app; unlimited replays let kids try and fail and try again.

Cons: Mini-games are uneven, and the app can be sluggish.

Bottom Line: Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics can be a fun -- but potentially frustrating -- way to learn about concepts.

Put kids in a virtual lab, experimenting with mechanical engineering concepts and simple machines. Talk to kids about their failed attempts and have them reflect on what they learned from those as well as from their successful attempts in the games. Encourage kids to read the Learn More section and review it before replaying a game.

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Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics is one of three STEAM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math -- apps from Autodesk, known for many professional-level engineering and architecture products. A taunting cat and crafty mouse lead kids through five mini-games that demonstrate different mechanical principles: "Energy & Work," "Force," "Power," "Loading," and "Mechanisms." Kids can replay games as many times as they want to, but even if they don't win, they can move on to others. Brief instructions introduce each game, and kids can read about the concepts and see diagrams of it in action, but they'll use a lot of trial and error in their hands-on application of the concepts within each game. In "Energy & Work," kids navigate a hot air balloon using fuel for energy. In "Force," they use a catapult to fire balls at the enemy cat. In "Loading," kids use a crane to load varied weights onto trucks. In "Power," kids have to land a spaceship on the moon, and in "Mechanism," they navigate a flying machine and collect cheese along the way.

The app responds slowly sometimes and crashes occasionally. Still, it's a free app offering overall engaging mini-games and well-written explanations of concepts, so it's worth checking out.

Kids can learn some of the principles of applied mechanics with Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics. They'll learn by reading and examining diagrams about each interrelated concept: energy & work, force, power, loading, and mechanisms. These concepts are essential for understanding how things work, as well as for creating solutions.

Kids get to apply what they've learned in each of the mini-games, but the games are uneven. Some are quite challenging, almost to the point of frustration. Players don't get any hints. They'll fail, and then they'll try again (and again and again, maybe) as they attempt to apply what they've learned. This approach could work well, but the information they're learning often won't help them actually master the games. Other games are relatively easy and don't always have good replay value.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Some of the mini-games are fun and challenging, offering good replay value as kids try and try again. Others may simply frustrate.

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

Kids get hands on in mini-games as they apply concepts they've read about. The written text is good overall, but the games aren't interactive and offer no audio support.

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

There's no score tracking, help, or hints; the point is for kids to figure things out on their own. At best, they may fail, try again, and eventually find success.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Mona E. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Huntington High School
Huntington, United States
The games are interesting but can be very frustrating.
I find the games frustrating to complete but I feel my students would do a much better job with the concepts.
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