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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.
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.
Editor's Note: TinkerBox is no longer available.
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.
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.