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Pros: Open-ended play and exploration put kids in the driver's seat and can lead to many new discoveries.
Cons: Some levels can feel repetitive.
Bottom Line: A clear, simple, and fun introduction to science and engineering topics that may otherwise feel unapproachable for some kids.
Use Crazy Gears to introduce kids to machinery, physics, and other STEM topics without the need for a machine shop and stock of gears, rods, and pulleys. The game is so simple and appealing that even kids who may feel wary of such topics should easily dive in. Then, use the parents' guide to teach new vocabulary (like rack and pinion), crystallize the scientific concepts (friction), and start making connections. Talk about real-world applications: What do we use on an everyday basis that uses gears? How can we take what we learned about a rack and pinion to explore how a car works? Let kids find and research other real-world applications for the tools and concepts introduced in the app. Use simple materials to make some real-life, hands-on models. Have kids work individually or in small groups to build their own machines and report back on their experiences.
In Crazy Gears, kids experiment with a variety of tools and moving parts to build a simple machine. Play is introduced with just one simple instruction: "Find a way to pull yourself to the next level." Kids figure out the rest on their own as they discover different ways to connect a ball and chain so that the next level gets "pulled" across the screen. The number of tools and gadgets increases through 61 levels, from wheels and gears and rods to pulleys, weights, rack and hook, and more. If parents sign up for an account, they can create multiple user accounts. A grown-ups' guide offers lots of definitions and background information.
Crazy Gears is a great opportunity for kids to engage in open-ended play and experimentation. Even on the 2-D screen, in solving each puzzle, kids get a really good sense of what the different tools and machinery parts do, and they learn about physics, problem-solving, and planning. Big science and engineering ideas like gravity, friction, and tension inform how and why these tools perform and function as they do. Lots of levels, many with multiple solutions, should keep kids busy for a while, even if some levels feel repetitive.
It would be nice to be able to choose levels or revisit completed levels. This could help kids experiment with trying different strategies, or help teachers target different concepts individually. The grown-ups' guide can be dense, but it's worth reading through -- and it's definitely worth sharing the definitions, gadget names, and fun facts with kids. Though the digital experience doesn't capture everything about physics (for example, how much torque is necessary to lift a really heavy item with a chain), this is a really creative, highly accessible, and deeply fun option for exploring physics and engineering.