App review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2014
SimpleRockets
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SimpleRockets

A few tweaks could rocket space sim from merely good to simply stellar

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 3 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
6–12 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.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Critical Thinking
Great for
PBL

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Pros: Engaging activities empower kids to explore rocket science at their own pace.

Cons: The touch controls can be tricky, and some of the harder challenges could frustrate kids who struggle.

Bottom Line: Easy-to-use tools and mode options make this a useful tool for teaching about basic engineering and orbital physics, but be prepared to help kids with the more advanced challenges.

SimpleRockets could be fun to use as a STEM enrichment tool in the classroom. As kids learn about such relevant topics as forces and motion or rocket engineering, have them work in small groups to experiment with different rocket designs. Once they have a few designs under their belts, the sandbox mode is a good place for them to start exploring. As kids get more comfortable with launching and orbiting, you could assign some of the challenges, and create your own class leaderboard of successes and failures. 

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Kids start with training sessions that guide them through the basics of designing, building, flying, and orbiting rockets. The instructions and graphics are clear and concise. Then kids can choose to freely explore in sandbox mode or compete with others in challenge mode.

Either way, the first step is to build a rocket by dragging parts into place. The rocket should have enough parts to allow kids to successfully complete a task. For example, the first task in challenge mode is to launch a rocket that will fly upward for at least 100 kilometers. A rocket for this task doesn't need much more than an engine, command pod, and fuel tank. A more challenging task is to launch a rocket that orbits a planet and lands using a parachute. For this challenge, a rocket needs a more complex design. Some of the other challenges include flying a small, low-fuel rocket as far as possible, traveling at the fastest speed possible, and safely docking with a satellite. 

Most kids will relish these challenges, but accessible hints and more precise touch controls could reduce potential frustration among kids who struggle.

SimpleRockets is a physics game in which kids explore a virtual solar system (called a "smolar system") by building and launching rockets. Kids create their own rockets with designs ranging from basic to complex, freely explore solar system planets, and participate in flying, orbiting, and landing competitions. In either sandbox or challenge mode, kids can learn about rocket design and basic orbital physics. A training section helps get kids started on designing and building rockets; tutorials for flying through space and orbiting the moon are also provided. By building their own rockets, kids develop an understanding of how different rocket parts work to complete tasks, as well as how the parts work together as a system. When kids launch rockets from different planets, they learn how variations in atmosphere and gravity affect orbital motion. Challenge mode motivates and empowers kids as they try to fly their rockets fastest and farthest, safely land on the moon, use the least amount of fuel, and more. While teaching kids about engineering and physics, the game promotes creativity and the important scientific concept of trial and error.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Building and launching rockets is a blast. Earning a spot on the leaderboards is a fun way to challenge kids. 

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Kids are in charge of designing and building their own rockets, which promotes critical-thinking skills and the use of trial and error.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Training is built in, giving kids a great start for learning the basics of rocket design and how to build, fly, and orbit their rockets. Additional guidance for challenges could ease frustration for some kids. 


Common Sense reviewer
Debbie Gorrell Educator

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Pat D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Falcon Creek Middle School
Aurora, United States
Great way to use physics in an astronomy unit.
This app makes me wish that I was teaching 8th grade again. Once my students learned about the Laws of Motion early in the year, this a great way to review those laws during the Astronomy unit. Students will feel like they are playing a game but they have to apply their prior learning to help them be successful. I could easily see my students downloading this app onto their own personal devices and playing it. They would be learning while having fun.
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