Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2018

Tinkercad

Amazingly simple yet powerful online CAD tool turns kids into makers

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts
  • Science

Skills
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (14 Reviews)

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Pros: Designing 3D objects has never been easier or more rewarding; kids can move from learn to design to print in no time.

Cons: Requires an internet connection and a laptop or desktop, which could be a problem for tablet and BYOD environments.

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

Tinkercad could be used in numerous ways, from creating designs based on a scientific concept to being featured in a unit or class on 3D design and printing. For example, in a challenge-based lesson, students could 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. Imagine the possibilities of students bringing literature, math, and even foreign language concepts to life by designing and printing objects around class content. Even if a classroom doesn't have a 3D printer, students can order prints of their creations from Tinkercad partners who produce and ship them. Each print job can cost a bit of money, though, depending on the size and materials chosen.

Options to share and improve upon others' designs bring a high level of collaboration with one another and the wider community of creators, as well as opportunities to teach students about creators' rights and derivative works. And the rich resources available on the site give students a chance to experience the design process in meaningful and relevant ways.

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Tinkercad is a free, kid-friendly online computer-aided design (CAD) program where users can design, modify, and print 3D objects. 3D printing has become a given in much of today's tech-rich environment, but students are still fascinated by both the capabilities and the process of such innovations. Available to anyone with an internet connection via a web browser (Chrome is recommended), 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 design their own shapes or pick shapes to subtract from their projects, providing an easy way to create arches or holes 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. Even better, designers can order 3D prints of their creations, making it very easy to create their own smartphone cases, custom Lego pieces, or whatever they can imagine making with flexible combinations of 3D objects. 

The Codeblocks feature, now in beta, offers students even more chances to develop their design skills and bring together creativity and coding for a true STEAM experience. 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 gaming skills by designing more complex structures in Tinkercad and then refining them in Minecraft.

New users of Tinkercad are immediately introduced to a series of scaffolded mini-lessons on how to use its various tools. Along the way, they also make some pretty cool things. The best part is the ability to move in and out of the lessons whenever they want to and immediately incorporate lesson ideas into their own design projects.

Tinkercad users 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 and discuss custom tools, shapes, and projects. Designers can also allow or prohibit derivative works, teaching students the ins and outs of creative credit and legal protections. The Community Forum encourages feature requests -- it's rich with suggestions and, inevitably, some complaints. But it creates a great opportunity for kids to engage in thinking not just about problems, but also solutions; the site boasts that many of its improvements stem from the Community, making it a truly collaborative effort. And with new features, such as Codeblocks, students are able to interact on an even wider scale to grow the ideas from seeds, ultimately, into tangible objects.

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 following the built-in lessons, Tinkercad can engage for hours; teachers should be prepared to step in and monitor students' design and community interactions.

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, simple, and engaging lessons, 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 take someone else's project and tinker with it. Getting individual support will require some reaching out to the community and help forum.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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, United States
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. ...
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