Engineering skills are everywhere. The 12 apps below include games, interactive magazines, and hands-on activities that will encourage your kids to think like an engineer.
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1. Solid Works
The tools provided in SolidWorks Apps for Kids are geared to elementary and middle school students. The app gives kids the opportunity to design, build, and print 3D models. This app will introduce your kids to engineering tools like CAD in a fun way.
Learn More: Solid Works
2. DNA Play
This fun monster game uses an easy pure-play style to introduce kids to the basic science of DNA. By completing a series of DNA puzzles, kids learn how to build creatures and create mutations. This app is an easy introduction to genomics for the 21st century.
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3. Curiosity Machine
Curiosity Machine is an app that is designed to bridge the gap between online and in-person engineering. The interface is bold and bright and provides you with sixty engineering challenges grouped into 13 categories including biomimicry, ocean engineering, and robotics.
Each challenge follows the design process of inspiration, planning, building, testing, redesigning, and reflecting. After watching video introductions, a challenge is chosen. The students will need to upload plans, stills, and videos of their work, including written reflections.
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4. DIY Nano
DIY Nano aims to make nanotechnology understandable for kids. It provides projects for kids to experiment with at home. There are more than 15 step-by-step activities, each includes a materials list (some items may be more complicated to acquire and messier than others), instructions, and detailed explanations of why they do what they do.
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An app focused on chemical engineering, SpaceChem is a design-based puzzle game. Players program machines that are used to bond atoms together to form molecules and solve puzzles. The app often includes associated chemistry trivia.
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6. Sound Uncovered
For the future sound engineer, this app includes many sound manipulation activities. Designed like an interactive magazine, this app features nine activities, videos, and articles that cover topics from speech recognition to the emotional impact of musical scales. A great exploration of the science of sound.
Learn More: AppAdvice
7. Hopscotch: Coding for Kids
Hopscotch is a free drag-and-drop coding app for kids. It provides enough scaffolding that kids can learn how to code, while still allowing them enough freedom to learn through trial and error.
The app provides excellent, quirky graphics that look like old-school arcade games and is definitely engaging for children of all ages.
Learn More: Hopscotch: Coding for Kids
8. States of Matter
This app, designed for iPad, allows kids to play with different solids, liquids, and gases. Through experimenting, observing, asking questions, and making guesses, kids discover how temperature affects states of matter. The burning question that kids have to answer is, “Does it melt?!”.
Learn More: States of Matter
9. Crazy Gears
Gears are an important part of an engineering mindset. Crazy Gears offers a set of puzzles that encourage students to manipulate gears, chains, rods, and pulleys to work through each level. It is completely open-ended, with no rules or ‘correct’ answers, allowing for an explorative experience.
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10. World of Goo
World of Goo is one of the original engineering puzzle games. The problems seem simple but often require creative solutions. Building bridges, ladders, and towers encourage a good engineering mindset, and the googly-eyed goo balls that serve as both construction materials and main characters keep it fun.
Learn More: World of Goo
11. Go Car Go
Go Car Go allows students to build cars that need certain characteristics to make it past the finish line. It provides a good hook for discussing principles like mass and acceleration. It also teaches engineering mindset skills like trying a design, evaluating its success, adjusting the design, and trying again.
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Tinkerbox is as close as you can get to an online Maker Space. It is a free-to-play physics puzzle game that teaches basic engineering concepts and creative problem-solving.
In Invent Mode, students can build outrageous machines, or download popular inventions.
Learn More: Tinkerbox
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between an engineering app and an engineering game?
In this article, we have included a wide array of engineering applications. Some are traditional games, like Minecraft, where the learning happens during gameplay. Others are puzzle games, where the iterative process of trying to get through the level provides trial-and-error feedback for students. Yet other apps, like Curiosity Machine and DIY Nano, provide online scaffolding needed for students to do hands-on Learn More: engineering projects.
What is the difference between an engineering app and a science app?
Many of the engineering apps mentioned above include scientific concepts (like physics and chemistry). However, these scientific concepts are put to work to solve problems, which is the essence of engineering. Engineering apps also often encourage students to think like an engineer, which includes building prototypes and adjusting their designs after experimentation.
Is it better to do hands-on engineering projects or to get an engineering app?
Hands-on engineering projects are important for motor skills development and logico-spatial reasoning. But the future of engineering is online, with computer models and coding. Getting students comfortable with engineering on the screen can be a good way to prepare them for the future.