Common Sense Review
Updated October 2016

TinkerBox

Fantastic physics puzzler puts a virtual maker faire in kids' hands
Common Sense Rating 4
  • Kids create their own inventions from scratch or by tweaking existing inventions.
  • In the physics-based puzzles section, students engineer solutions using the available tools.
  • When engineering their own invention, kids choose which tools serve their purpose.
  • A tutorial demonstrates each tool and ways to use it.
  • Kids can play in Puzzles mode or Invent mode to complete the puzzlers, create their own, or add to existing demos.
Pros
Several levels of challenging puzzles, plus the option for kids to be creators.
Cons
The design may turn some off, and the TinkerBox help page is no longer supported online.
Bottom Line
TinkerBox is a rich resource for kids to learn, practice, and apply physics and engineering principles.
Jason Shiroff
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

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 engineering skills through each level by creating inventions and solving puzzles. 

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 exploring more demos on the developer's website.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Tinkering is hands-on problem-solving and creating, but it can get messy and expensive. TinkerBox let kids experiment, solve problems, and create without needing supplies or space to work.

Students can work individually or in pairs. Allow some creative time for their own interests, or present a problem for students to solve. Have students create inventions virtually first, and then translate those creations to real-world prototypes.

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What's It Like?

TinkerBox is part game, part creative outlet. Kids can work their way through the six levels of puzzles, each offering multiple stages, where they drag the right object into place to solve a simple physics problem -- think Rube Goldberg machines. Kids complete one level to unlock the next, more challenging one. The training level demonstrates the mechanics with lines and arrows to prepare kids for the challenges to come.

Students can also create their own inventions using the objects: balls, bolts, chains, connectors, conveyer belts, fans, wheels, ropes, scissors, switches, wrenches, and more. The app comes preloaded with several inventions, and kids can alter those inventions or study them for inspiration.

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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 free. The number of objects available for building is extensive, which is good, since the physics of the higher levels can get quite challenging. 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. 

Students learn the basic concepts through the tutorial, practice in the puzzle section, and apply their knowledge in the invention section. Scaffolding is built in since kids can load existing inventions and customize them. While the industrial appearance of the lab may turn off some students, TinkerBox is still an all-in-one teaching tool that should appeal to many.

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