Website review by Christie Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2014

Curiosity Machine

Kids build, share, receive pro feedback with awesome engineering site

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 4 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
2–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Creativity
Great for
PBL

Take a look inside

5 images

Pros: Nothing beats the real-world connections, true design process, and pro support built into the site’s easy-to-use interface.

Cons: Teachers may miss some classroom capabilities (student account oversight) and lesson support (topic search engine, NGSS alignment, more content).

Bottom Line: Though it may not be an instant fit for your classroom, the exceptional quality of the site’s projects and processes makes it worth any problem solving.

The Curiosity Kit guide details how much adult guidance the design process requires, and it’s clear that kids will definitely need support from a parent, teacher, or other adult. Elementary teachers using projects in class will want to invite extra adults to work with small groups of kids. Keep in mind that parental consent is required for students under age 13 to create accounts on the site.

Feedback from a site mentor may take a few days; spread work time through core classes over a few weeks to allow for such delay. Middle school teams can try an ocean engineering challenge, like connecting biome study with transportation modes and speed calculations. High school teachers will (happily) find that kids need little support. Finished your Newton’s Laws unit? Turn your kids loose on the Mars Rover challenge and revel in the practical application. More broadly: Use the site to launch conversations about real-world problems and STEM careers.

Continue reading Show less

Editor's Note: Curiosity Machine is now Technovation Families.

Curiosity Machine offers more than 60 engineering projects grounded in the work of current scientists and powerfully supported by online mentors. Challenges are grouped into topics (such as aerospace and satellite systems). Users must create accounts to share work and receive feedback, but any site visitor can view all projects.

A horizontal Design Process bar organizes each challenge. The Inspiration step offers a short video clip highlighting the scientist and research behind the project. For the Plan phase, users view a materials list and upload text, a drawing/photo, or video of their ideas. In the Build/Test/Redesign phase, users continue to document and upload their progress. Online mentors provide personalized feedback (within a few days) and then send kids on to the final Reflection phase. At any time, users can access the Guide, which includes how-to steps, an instructional video, and a Learn More tab.

With a wide variety of projects (from building an octopus chromatophore to a cam mechanism), there are endless ways to connect the engineering design process to class activities. This terrific tool empowers kids to work directly with current, real-world research through hands-on engagement and personalized, professional feedback. The high-quality Curiosity Kit PDF is replete with info and templates, including a curriculum guide and a website walkthrough.

Curiosity Machine is currently designed more for after-school enrichment or community outreach than for classroom use. The scientific practices are easy to embed, but teachers will want more in terms of classroom-ready content and suggestions for structuring design activities over multiple school days. More background information (like links to explanatory sites and a subject search engine) would help educators plan lessons that include the high-quality challenges. Including info about age ranges for each challenge could also help teachers find suitable fits, and a teacher dashboard could provide oversight as well as increase peer communication among several kids interested in the same design challenges.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Build a bubble machine; make a helicopter. Engaging video clips show the real-world inspiration behind these kid-awesome engineering challenges. Further, students can actually upload their work, receiving personalized feedback from a pro.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Kids plan, build, test, and revise, powerfully following a true design process. One-on-one input from an online mentor fosters productive progress. Teachers, though, would benefit from more connections to content and student oversight.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

A great demo video, informative FAQ, and PDF start-up kits will rocket educators and parents into operation. Users will miss in-the-moment help (glossary, tips). Advanced language and tasks mean youngsters typically won’t work alone.


Common Sense reviewer
Christie Thomas Classroom teacher

Community Rating

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Todd B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lancaster Mennonite School
Lancaster, United States
Transform study hall using student-centered design challenges.
I like the variety of the design challenges. There seems to be something for most students in this collection, from art to food to engineering. The student reads the challenge, watches an inspirational (hopefully!) video on the idea, and then has some open space to work through the design process. This provides the greatest learning possibility, with the attendant risk of student frustration. The greatest weakness of this site is directly related to its greatest strength. In giving students the greatest ...
Read full review

Privacy Rating

This tool has not yet been rated by our privacy team. Learn more about our privacy ratings