Contraption Maker

Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 8 reviews

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Not yet rated
Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

3–8

Subjects & Skills

Creativity, Critical Thinking, Science

Great for

Game-Based Learning, PBL

Price: Free, Paid
Platforms: Mac, Windows

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 wraparound to connect what kids are doing with 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. 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.

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 200 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.

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 light bulbs beats the heart of science. This game knows it's fun and never forgets that solving problems doesn't have to be dull.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

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

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

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 T.
David T. Director of academic technology

Community Rating

great way to test student's problem solving skills in a fun and interactive way!

Overall I definitely recommend this product for teachers to use in the classroom. It really gets the child thinking and forces them to act strategically, while still having the activity be fun and interactive. This program was very easy to set up and a student can definitely navigate around it on their own. Theres even a part on the program where students can create machines from scratch which requires them to creative and think outside the box. Overall, it's an excellent program that can definitely teach a child great problem solving skills and utilize their creativity and knowledge in a fun and interactive way.

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