Review by David Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2014

Contraption Maker

Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines

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Teachers say (5 Reviews)
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Grades
3-8 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Full-featured puzzle game offers ample opportunities for building conceptual knowledge.

Cons: Teachers will need to build the bridge from fun to actual learning.

Bottom Line: Hands-on problem-solving leads to great fun and independent learning with the right curricular wrap-around to make connections between what kids are doing and what they need to know.

On its own, Contraption Maker is a wonderfully entertaining game. At this point, the game lacks any structured curriculum or lesson tools (although they're promised in the near future). So, for now, teachers will find that any subject that requires problem-solving, understanding of cause-and-effect, and systems thinking can use this game to bring those points home. Whether bringing up examples in class and having students talk through possible solutions, or having kids play as a means to opening conversations about more serious types of systems and problems, Contraption Maker is a great way to get kids talking and thinking, and to cement learning through experience.

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Contraption Maker brings Rube Golberg machines to life as players take on the role of wacky engineers. If you don't recognize the name Rube Goldberg, you do know the machines -- collections of random parts cobbled together to perform simple tasks in the least efficient manner possible.

In Contraption Maker, pre-built machines with a few parts missing challenge players to repair a chain of actions to reach a goal, maybe trapping a mouse or freeing a balloon. Inserting gears, ropes, light switches, and generators, positioning laser beams and mirrors, as well as using the classic spring-loaded white-gloved finger, players get the machine working and then enjoy watching the cascade of actions achieve their goal. With more than 100 parts, the variety of built-in puzzles range from simple tutorial challenges to advanced brain teasers. When the included puzzles run out, players can design their own machines and share them with a growing online community of contraption makers.

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After playing with Contraption Maker for a while, most players will find it so much fun, they won’t even wonder about its educational aspects. But the developers have education in mind. As the sequel to the wildly popular Incredible Machine, this game follows the idea that giving players complex problems in an easy-to-understand and amusing package is a great way to lead with engagement and follow with learning.

Whether augmenting lessons on cause-and-effect, sequences of action, problem-solving, or systems thinking, the game serves as an amazing playground of possibility. Underneath the jack-in-the-boxes, bouncy balls, cannons, and hamster-powered lightbulbs beats the heart of science. This game knows it’s fun, and never forgets that solving problems doesn't have to be dull.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

Contraption Maker provides so much puzzle-solving fun that kids may never think about it as a learning game. Solving the silly, ever-inventive puzzles keeps players glued to the task.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

More like a box of interesting parts to build with than a curriculum, the learning potential seems obvious, even if the lesson plans haven't been developed yet.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Great built-in tutorials walk players through all the skills they need to solve puzzles, and a growing online community provides more advanced guidance. With a game as involved as this one, however, more help is needed.


Common Sense Reviewer
David Thomas Director of academic technology

Teacher Reviews

5
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Featured review by
Patricia P. , Special education instructor
Special education instructor
5
My students have LOVED this creative, FUN way to learn physics and employ problem solving!!!

I highly recommend this product!! Boys as well as girls love trying to solve the puzzles. They experience a multitude of educational lessons while having FUN!!!!!

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