Top Pick

Best Engineering Tools

Tech and engineering skills are becoming increasingly important for school, life, and work; the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have raised engineering design to the same level as scientific inquiry. When students engage in engineering practices, they'll be better able to solve environmental and societal problems that affect us today -- like preventing disease, maintaining clean water supplies, and dealing with issues related to climate change. Get your kids ready with these fun, intuitive, intros to the basics, platforms for creation, and hubs for inspiration.

Be an Inventor and Maker

DIY Nano Publisher: The Lawrence Hall of Science
Turn kids into budding nanoscientists who explore the tiniest things
Grades 2-5
Type App
Price Free
Platforms iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
littleBits Invent Publisher: littleBits Electronics Inc.
Top-notch tool empowers kids to invent, build, and control wirelessly
Grades 2-8
Type App
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
Curiosity Machine Visit Website: https://www.curiositymachine.org
Kids build, share, receive pro feedback with awesome engineering site
Grades 2-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Design Squad Nation Visit Website: http://pbskids.org/designsquad
Classmates can compete to solve fun engineering problems
Grades 3-8
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
DIY Visit Website: http://www.diy.org
Design, build, and share new things offline and online
Grades 3-8
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Make: Online Visit Website: http://makezine.com/
Fuel creative makers with project ideas, reviews, and community
Grades 8-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating 4
HowStuffWorks Publisher: HowStuffWorks.com
Explore the world's nuts and bolts in this fab interactive info hub
Grades 9-12
Type App
Price Free
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Windows Phone, Apps for Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3

Design and Test Solutions

3D Slash Visit Website: http://www.3dslash.net
Minecraft-like 3D modeling (and printing) made super easy for all ages
Grades 2-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Autodesk Design Academy Visit Website: http://academy.autodesk.com
Outstanding project-based tutorials for popular engineering software
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
SketchUp Visit Website: http://www.sketchup.com/
Make learning meaningful through 3D design
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
The PocketLab Publisher: Myriad Sensors
Gather and analyze live data anywhere
Grades 6-12
Type App
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, Chrome, Windows Phone
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 5
Tinkercad Visit Website: http://www.tinkercad.com
Amazingly simple yet powerful and flexible online CAD tool
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4

Get Inspired and Learn

PBS LearningMedia: Teaching NGSS Engineering Design Through Media Visit Website: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/
Videos, lessons, essays, PD help bring engineering practices to kids
Grades 2-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 5
BrainPOP: Engineering & Tech Visit Website: http://www.brainpop.com
Animated shorts provide engaging intro to variety of STEM topics
Grades 3-9
Type Website
Price From $220
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Engineer Girl Visit Website: http://www.engineergirl.org/
Female engineers give girls career advice on this visually appealing site
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating 3
NOVA: Tech & Engineering Visit Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova
Vast video resources explore key STEM concepts
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Couragion Visit Website: http://www.couragion.com/
Individualized STEM career exploration targets students' values
Grades 7-12
Type Website
Price Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Ted-Ed: Design, Engineering & Technology Visit Website: http://ed.ted.com
Expand-your-brain video lessons can work well as advanced extensions
Grades 8-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated

Play with Simulations and Games

Simple Machines by Tinybop Publisher: Tinybop
Excellent elementary NGSS engineering practices embedded in fun games
Grades K-5
Type App
Price 2.99
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Inventioneers Full Version Publisher: Filimundus AB
Budding engineers create design solutions with fun physics puzzler
Grades 2-8
Type App
Price $2.99
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire, Fire phone
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Contraption Maker Publisher: Spotkin
Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines
Grades 3-8
Type Game
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Minecraft - Pocket Edition Publisher: Mojang
World-building, resource-gathering game almost as good as PC version
Grades 3-8
Type App
Price $6.99
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone, Fire phone
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
Minecraft Publisher: Mojang
Spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep
Grades 3-12
Type Game
Price $26.95 for desktop, $19.99 for consoles (except Wii U at $29.99)
Platforms Linux, Mac, Wii U, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
Algodoo Publisher: Algoryx
Sandbox tool enables engaged, conceptual physics inquiry
Grades 4-12
Type Game
Price Free
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
Kerbal Space Program Publisher: Squad
Design and launch a rocket into space in realistic astrophysics sim
Grades 9-12
Type Game
Price Free to Try, Paid
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated