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Review by Paul Cancellieri, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2012

Coaster Crafter: Build. Ride. Scream!

Cleverly draws on love of coasters to teach velocity, force, motion

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
7-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (9 Reviews)
4

Take a look inside

4 images

Pros: Students get frequent feedback, and after they master the basics they can try to build their own roller coasters.

Cons: It doesn't work on tablet browsers, and teachers can't assess student progress.

Bottom Line: This outstanding physics game has ample teacher support and connects to a pastime that's just plain fun.

A teachers section includes printable lesson plans for before and after the roller coaster simulation. Students can create accounts to save their work without giving their last names or email addresses. After using Coaster Crafter, you might take students to visit a real amusement park, arming them with questions about what design elements would make certain coasters faster, slower, scarier, or less scary.

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Coaster Crafter starts  with a fun narrative about the owner of an amusement park and his daughter, who need help designing better roller coasters. They watch demonstrations of the simulator, which shows design flaws in several coasters. Then, in a series of lessons called Design Challenge, they correctly answer questions, which are clearly expressed with words and images, about relevant physics vocabulary (momentum and kinetic energy, for example). Correct answers unlock different types of track pieces and customizations they'll use later. Students must complete each step before moving on, and they receive feedback on the accuracy of their answers.

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Coaster Crafter is a great tool for teaching students about force and motion. On the whole, it does a great job of using virtual experience to teach somewhat abstract concepts. The science content and vocabulary may be too advanced for most sixth graders, but older students should be able to work independently. Teacher resources are adequate; adding a way for teachers to gather assessment data would make this an even better resource.

In Coaster Challenge, students tackle practical problems by dragging and dropping track pieces and modifiers (chain drives for lifting the coaster and lubricant for reducing friction) and testing their ideas. This stage is a lot of fun, and it's well-designed to keep students from skipping ahead. Sometimes the challenges are difficult, but the program helps struggling students by gradually reducing the number of pieces available. Free Play is the last stage, and it's a playground where students can design and test their own roller coaster ideas. Students use the pieces they've unlocked in the Design Challenges, so this is a reward for completing the more instructional sections. Students can customize the look and sound of their coasters, and to save their work they can create an account.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Graphics and gameplay are intuitive and visually appealing. The problem-based design will draw most kids in, and creative play will keep them engaged, although the thrill of designing their own courses may lose its novelty after a few hours.

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

Earning more pieces to use in the construction challenges is a great incentive to complete the structured learning activities. Lessons start off at a high level, but animations make the difficulty reasonable for the suggested ages.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4
Very useful help section provides clear fixes for most problems. The teachers page offers fantastic support for educators, including curriculum resources and ways to extend learning beyond the game.

Common Sense Reviewer
Paul Cancellieri Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

4
(See all 9 reviews) (9 reviews)
Featured review by
Sandy W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
4
Entry event for a PBL project on coasters

This was an excellent simulation for our project on coasters and physics. A teacher needs to be comfortable implementing a game-based learning approach during the process, and students will be controlling their learning part of the time. The game is engaging and challenging. Lessons, suggestions, and resources are strong additions to this simulation.

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