Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2015
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Circuit Jam

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Sandbox-style lab sim lets kids play safely with circuits

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-12
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Pros: The game combines lab simulations with puzzles for an interesting mix of educational gameplay.

Cons: Without much instructional support, kids who are fairly new to circuitry could easily get lost.

Bottom Line: A cool way to explore how circuits work, without the shocking real-life risks.

Use Circuit Jams as a supplement to help kids visualize and understand the flow of energy within circuits. Have kids work in teams or small groups to complete the puzzles, one at a time. Come together as a class to discuss the solution to each puzzle. Encourage kids to take notes about their puzzle-solving strategies to share with the class. If possible, conduct a laboratory session in which kids can recreate one or more of the circuits they've had a chance to build in sandbox mode.

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Circuit Jam is an engaging tool that kids can use to safely explore circuits, empowering them to test, modify, and retest. Puzzles are arranged in the following categories, depending on the type of challenge they present: Current, Voltage, Resistor, Ohm's Law, and Capacitor. Each category includes several puzzles that must be unlocked in sequential order. The first set of puzzles is free, but the remaining ones must be purchased. In sandbox mode, kids can build and test circuits using components such as resistors, capacitors, lamps, switches, voltage sources, and more. 

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Circuit Jam offers a unique mix of lab simulation and gameplay. Kids get to experiment in a virtual lab-like setting while solving puzzles and unlocking components for the sandbox mode. One of the best features is that kids get to manipulate components of circuits, observe what happens, make modifications if needed, and test them again. It's a great application of common science practices. As they experiment, kids can learn about electrical circuits and energy flow: They're given a certain shape for each circuit and have to manipulate its components to generate signals that will replicate that shape.

Puzzles become increasingly difficult as kids progress. For example, in the first puzzle, kids must simply close a switch within a circuit to generate a constant electronic signal that produces a flat line. In later puzzles, they have to toggle switches to generate fluctuating signals, add current by connecting current sources in parallel, and divide current by adding multiple parallel branches within a circuit. Kids get instant visual feedback as they work with the circuits, but the addition of some hints could help guide those who struggle to solve the puzzles. The sandbox mode is a great opportunity for kids to replicate and test their own circuit problems or to freely experiment with circuit building.

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Overall Rating

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

Kids will enjoy solving the puzzles and experimenting with how their actions affect how the circuits work.

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

Puzzles increase in difficulty, and visual feedback provides an opportunity for kids to test, redesign, and retest. The sandbox mode encourages creativity.

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

Navigation is pretty simple, and the interactive features are intuitive. Instructional support is weak, which could be an issue for some kids.


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