Review by Mark Chen, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015

Tinkercad

Amazingly simple yet powerful and flexible online CAD tool

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts
  • Science

Skills
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (14 Reviews)

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Pros: Designing 3-D objects has never been easier or more rewarding.

Cons: Requires an Internet connection, which could be a problem for some schools.

Bottom Line: A big step forward in making 3-D design more accessible and social.

Tinkercad could be used in numerous ways, from open computer lab time to being featured in a unit or class on 3-D design and printing. What’s so awesome is that even if a classroom doesn’t have a 3-D printer, students can order prints of their creations from within the Tinkercad application. These orders get sent to a partner print shop that produces the objects and ships them. Each print job can cost a bit of money, though. A test job for this review was estimated to be about $100.

An example unit could ask students to design a solution to an authentic problem from their community. Students could be asked to think of some problem that a physical object could solve and then be given a couple of weeks to design and test their solutions. Alternatively, students who are engaged with Minecraft in schools can extend their play-create experience by importing Tinkercad objects.

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I wish Tinkercad, an online computer-aided design (CAD) program, had existed when I was a kid! I got an art degree in 3-D graphics 20 years ago. Back then, the barriers to entry were close to insurmountable for families and individuals without access to well-funded college labs. But now, Tinkercad has taken that kind of computing power for 3-D art design and creation and made it free and available to anyone with an Internet connection (via website or Chrome app). 

Tinkercad makes it easy for students to learn a staple of the design process -- combining multiple simple objects to make more complex shapes. It also allows students to pick shapes to subtract from their projects, providing an easy way to create arches, holes, or whatever, using negative space as a tool. Beyond these two basic procedures, students also get a slew of other tools at their disposal, such as stretching, rotating, and deforming -- similar to tools you’d find in a 2-D photo-editing program. Even better, designers can order 3-D prints of their creations, making it very easy to design their own smartphone cases, custom LEGO pieces, or whatever they can imagine making with flexible combinations of 3-D objects.​ Many students will also be delighted to find out they can import their creations into Minecraft -- this offers an excellent opportunity for students to level up their Minecraft skills by designing more complex structures in Tinkercad and then refining them in Minecraft.

New users of Tinkercad are immediately introduced to more than 40 mini-lessons on how to use its various tools. Along the way, these new designers not only learn how to use Tinkercad, they also make some pretty cool things, and they can hop out of the lessons whenever they want to immediately extend lesson ideas in their own design projects.

Additionally, each user of Tinkercad can share their projects with others through its online community; this is essential to the overall Tinkercad experience. A huge part of the appeal is that designers can share custom tools, shapes, and projects with each other. Surprisingly, however, there doesn't seem to be an online discussion board that allows designers to chat and talk about general issues, find support, etc. Instead, they can comment on each others' projects, which means each “conversation” is associated with a specific design project.

Overall Rating

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

Whether students are working on a specific design challenge or just following the built-in lessons, Tinkercad can engage for hours and hours.

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

Tinkercad immediately introduces students to its tools through a series of short, engaging lessons that make it easy to learn, and primes students to participate in its online community.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

It’s easy to jump right in or to take someone else’s project and tinker with it, but it’s also surprisingly hard to find ways to get individual support.


Common Sense Reviewer
Mark Chen Researcher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 14 reviews) (14 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Bryan H. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Central Junior High School
Euless, TX
The best free tool for teaching concepts of 3D modeling
I thoroughly enjoy teaching my kids to use TinkerCAD. It's FREE, which means the price is right for any school budget. The fact that it's entirely online means there's no software to license or install, which keeps our IT department happy. The site does offer a "teacher code" for educators, but nowhere could I find instructions on how students could/should actually USE that code to create a classroom environment or shared object library. I wish they would fix that. It would simplify things enormously.
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