Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016
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Challenging game helps kids learn to think like programmers

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.
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (8 Reviews)

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Pros: Fun, engrossing game where kids learn a full range of programming skills.

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.

Use Cargo-Bot to bring STEM into the classroom. Have a programmer talk to kids about careers in computer programming, 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.

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Cargo-Bot is a tough game where kids write programs to control a robotic arm, making the robot move crates into the configuration shown at 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 can be 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.

The concept is simple: Direct a robotic arm to move crates to a designated spot. But young programmers will still find the implementation quite challenging. And just like in coding, a working solution may not be the optimal one. 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 building programming skills.

As kids drag and drop directions into place to make the robotic arm move, they'll learn the gist of programming concepts like procedural abstraction, subroutines, looping constructs, and conditional programming, all without having to master the lingo or detailed syntax of code. Kids will practice tackling a big problem by breaking it down into smaller steps, a foundation of writing good code.

Overall Rating

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?

The step-by-step logic that teaches kids to tackle a bigger problem by breaking it into steps will build better programmers and help kids in many other 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?

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.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 8 reviews) (8 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Greg D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ute Pass Elementary School
Chipita Park, United States
Great game for beginning programmers
This is a great app for teaching coding to elementary students. The app takes place in a warehouse environment. The game is similar to those toy grabber machines at arcades and restaurants. Students need to program the grabber. Caution: this app can be confusing to some students.
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