Six tools for engineering instruction

These engineering tools can help with classroom instruction

engineering-toolsHere are reviews of six high-quality apps, tools, and websites that can help teach engineering concepts, courtesy of Common Sense Media and its new Graphite service—a free database of teacher-written reviews of learning technologies.


1. Amazing Alex

Learning rating: 4 (out of 5)
Grade range: 4-8
What is it? A crazy contraptions physics app that has kids cobble together Rube Goldberg-like devices to guide balls.
Pros: Inspiring and challenging activities are easy to navigate with the clean, sophisticated design.
Cons: Scientific terminology is lacking, as is a gentle hint system to teach concepts.
Bottom line: With endless possibilities and refined controls, Amazing Alex inspires kids to make unique puzzles and imaginative machines.
Full review:

2. Coaster Crafter

Learning rating: 4
Grade range: 7-12
What is it? This website cleverly draws on students’ love of roller coasters to teach velocity, force, and motion.
Pros: Students get frequent feedback, and after they master the basics they can try to build their own roller coasters.
Cons: Doesn’t work on tablet browsers, and teachers can’t assess student progress.
Bottom line: Outstanding physics game has ample teacher support and connects to a pastime that’s just plain fun.
Full review:

3. Design Squad Nation

Learning rating: 5
Grade range: 3-8
What is it? Classmates can compete to solve fun engineering problems with this website.
Pros: Highly interactive resources drive home the skills and processes of engineering and design.
Cons: Episodes and games use Adobe Flash and won’t work on iOS devices.
Bottom line: Design Squad Nation makes engineering fun through hands-on activities and easy-to-understand scientific explanations.
Full review:

4. Minecraft

Learning rating: 5
Grade range: 3-12
What is it? A spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep in this game for Windows, Mac, and Linux devices.
Pros: Delivers open, creative, and purposeful play supported by frequent updates.
Cons: Open world can lead to power struggles and community problems without a shared code of conduct.
Bottom line: An irresistible and seemingly limitless incubator for 21st-century skills that, with a little guidance, can chart new courses for learning.
Full review:

5. MinecraftEdu

Learning rating: 5
Grade range: 1-12
What is it? A teacher dashboard and genius tutorial help this sandbox gem sparkle.
Pros: Stellar tutorial map and teacher dashboard aid accessibility and customizability.
Cons: Runs the danger of schoolifying Minecraft.
Bottom line: Great for learners who are new to Minecraft and in need of guidance, but loses some of the wide-open and mysterious allure of the original.
Full review:

6. World of Goo

Learning rating: 4
Grade range: 4-12
What is it? A fun puzzler about building structures with unique materials.
Pros: Intuitive controls, great design, and lots of implicit learning make this game a winner to explore.
Cons: Some of the challenging puzzles might frustrate kids with spatial difficulties.
Bottom line: A dependable hook for getting kids interested in geometry and the elements of building structures.
Full review:

Source: eSchool News. Thanks to Jo Oshiro of the Oregon University System for sending the link.

Take a Look, Get a Free Book

“Like” my page on Facebook and get a free book. If you are interested in engineering education, this fan page is for you. It’s still in development but will serve as a discussion forum for getting students into engineering. I’ll share my stories of success from organizations all over the world, keep you updated on my schedule so you can attend a workshop in your area, and direct you to products or events that will help you promote and share the fun of engineering.

When you like the page, send me your name and email address. After I confirm your like, I’ll provide a download link for a pdf version of “Engineers Make a Difference: Motivating Students to Pursue an Engineering Education.”

Engineers Decide

Awaken the young engineer within your student or child! Ideal for ages five through ten, Engineers Decide explains that engineering isn’t about “things” but about individuals, inspired to bring forth the discoveries that will change our world. By instilling the joy of designing the future – whether as part of a team or working solo – Engineers Decide ignites children’s curiosity to the wonders of applying their imagination to meet fresh challenges. Engineers deciding upon solutions for product development, as well as all sorts of inventions familiar to children, are described simply and depicted with colorful artwork. And photos show children actively participating in the adventure of discovering next-generation technology. Filled with interactive graphics and videos, Engineers Decide stirs tomorrow’s engineers to realize their potential by exploring this exciting field.

Engineers Decide by David Janosz, was recently released in the interactive iBook format for the iPad and is free in the iTunes Bookstore until October 13.