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Apps to ‘gear up’ for summer engineering fun

Apps to ‘gear up’ for summer engineering fun

The lazy days of summer provide a great time to tempt the tinkerer out of kids. With this collection of apps, kids can “gear up” for summer engineering fun by playing games that turn them into inventors. By solving mechanical puzzles, they will learn how simple machines work. The digital wacky machines they build may spark the desire to design their own Rube Goldberg-type machines.1411581703000-iPhone6-PF-SpGry-5-Up-iOS8-PRINT

With a nod to Rube Goldberg, each puzzle in this series presents a partially-completed madcap machine and a goal. Extra parts such as ropes, ramps, stools, seesaws, springs, fans and such appear in a tray at the bottom. By dragging items into the contraption-making scene, kids experiment with what can be connected to other items and how to start the chain reaction. They then hit a play button to see what happens and can reset it to tweak or change their design.

Why this app is good: Without using words, this app is able to convey to the player what kind of invention he or she needs to create. The goals are always zany, from catapulting a person into the bathtub to dropping a crown on a king’s head; so kids willingly expand their thinking to become the nutty inventor.

As inventors, players manipulate real objects; but the puzzles also introduce silly and fun Inventioneer characters, who each have special abilities. Windy carries a hairdryer; so if you bang his hard hat with a solid object like a falling apple, he turns on the hairdryer to blow another object or start a fan spinning. Kids will become bewitched by Inventioneer Maggie, whose special ability is creating magical portals though which objects can travel to then pop out elsewhere on the screen. Also exciting is the ability to design your own puzzles using objects earned by your success. In iOS and Android, families can download a free-to-try model, which gives families 14 inventions to create for free, with the other 98 inventions unlocked with an in-app purchase of $1.99. In iOS, there is also a paid version where you get the full app upfront.

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