Blog

15 Best Engineering and Programming Tools

November 22, 2013
Ellen Holderman
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Technology Integration, Tools

In recognition of Computer Science Education Week (Dec 9th-15th) and The Hour of Code, we are featuring great tools that help students learn engineering and programming skills.

There are tools appropriate even for the very young on this list, as well as those suited for high school-aged students. To see the complete list as well as the rating of product, visit the Top-Picks List, Best Engineering and Programming Tools. 

Photo by steveonjava.

 

Stencyl
Stencyl is a game creation program that’s focused on codeless, cross-platform game making. By snapping blocks of code together, students and teachers can create games (and curricula) that can be published on a variety of platforms.Read full review.

Mozilla Thimble
Thimble is an online webpage editor and set of remixable projects designed to help kids learn how to write the Web. As part of Mozilla's Webmaker project, Thimble displays two windows at once to show kids how the code they write creates the webpage they see on a browser. Read full review.

My Robot Friend
In My Robot Friend, kids learn by doing. Kids direct their robot friend through mazes to a treasure chest by programming his moves step by step. Dragging the moves or direction or weapon into place for their robot creates a script for their robot to follow, just as they'd write when coding programs. Read full review.

Minecraft
Minecraft is a sandbox game that rewards players for collecting and combining resources into new, useful items that enrich gameplay and help further exploration and creativity. Minecraft cultivates 21st-century skills: goal-setting, collaboration, creativity, design and systems thinking, and engineering. Read full review.

Design Squad Nation
The Design Squad Nation website complements the PBS Kids television show "Design Squad," in which teenagers compete to create the most novel solutions to engineering challenges. High-quality, engineering-related games present interactive ways for kids to explore the problem-solving process. Read full review.

Garry's Mod
Garry's Mod (GMod) is a physics sandbox stuffed with art and models from Valve software's popular games, including "Half-Life 2" and "Counter-Strike." With GMod, students can model solutions to physics problems, draw hypotheses about how things work in the real world, make films or sculptures, or just have madcap fun. Read full review.

Codeacademy
Codecademy, older kids and teens write computer code. They set their own pace through lessons on every major modern programming language, including PHP, Javascript, Python, Ruby, HTML, and CSS. The self-paced design makes Codecademy a perfect extension of classroom activities for students ready for more. Read full review.

Trainyard
Trainyard is a train routing puzzle game that's easy to learn but hard to master. The goal: Get the color-coded trains from their outlets to their correct stations. Kids create and test track configurations on a grid background until they find one that works. Read full review.

Hackasaurus
In Hackasaurus teaches kids (and their teachers) how to read, code, and remix the Web. The Hacktivity Kit (on the resources page) includes a rationale for teaching Web authoring, as well as a hack jam lesson plan, cheat sheets for using the Remixer and writing HTML, and badges to award hack jam participants. Read full review.

Cargo-bot
Kids playing Cargo-Bot write programs to control a robotic arm, having the robot move crates into the configuration shown on 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 is challenging!). Read full review.

Scratch
Scratch is a project from MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten Group that teaches math, programming, and creative expression through technology. Most of the learning is tacit and supported by classroom teachers helping kids learn to code, a 21st-century skill that's quickly gaining importance. Read full review.

MinecraftEdu
All of the open-ended possibilities of the base game still exist in MinecraftEdu, but its bundle of mods and dashboard features gives teachers more control. With MinecraftEdu, teachers can quickly host servers and build custom maps with integrated content as well as create and administer assignments and lessons. Read full review.

Gamestar Mechanic
Gamestar Mechanic is an online toolset, game, and community that teaches kids how to build games. A series of manga cut-scenes and "missions" ask kids to play, fix, and make different kinds of games built around specific mechanics, like collecting points or jumping. Read full review.

Coaster Crafter
Coaster Crafter starts with a fun narrative about the owner of an amusement park and his daughter, who need help designing better roller coasters. They watch demonstrations of the simulator, which shows design flaws in several coasters. Coaster Crafter is a great tool for teaching students about force and motion. Read full review.

 

What websites or apps are you using to get ready for The Hour of Code? Sign in to comment below.