Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics App Poster Image
Uneven mini-games let kids grapple with mechanics concepts.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn the principles of applied mechanics by reading and examining diagrams about interrelated concepts: energy and work, force, power, loading, and mechanisms. These concepts are essential for understanding how things work as well as for creating solutions, and kids get to apply what they've learned in each mini-game. The text won't necessarily help kids master the games, however. Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics can be a fun or frustrating -- or both -- way to learn mechanical concepts.

Ease of Play

Some of these mini-games are quite challenging -- to the point of frustration -- but offer endless chances for replay. Others are relatively simple. Help comes in the form of scientific information about the principles at play rather than how-tos for solving each level.

Violence

A mouse catapults balls at cats' heads, which explode when hit. In fact, this game has a lot of small explosions when missions fail.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics is one of three STEAM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math -- apps from Autodesk, known for many professional-level engineering and architecture products. Though the other two apps are more like interactive textbooks, Applied Mechanics is gamified learning. The mini-games are quite challenging, with no hints available. Kids simply read about scientific principles and use what they've learned to try to win levels. The other apps in the Autodesk Digital STEAM curriculum include Measurement and Visual Design and are designed to introduce kids to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. Some of the mini-games in Applied Mechanics include cartoon-like cat-and-mouse violence. 

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What's it about?

A taunting cat and crafty mouse lead kids through five mini-games that demonstrate different mechanical principles: Energy & Work, Force, Power, Loading, and Mechanisms. Kids can replay games as many times as they want to, but, even if they don't win, they can move on to other games. Brief instructions introduce each game, and kids can read about the concepts and see diagrams, but there's a lot of trial and error here. In Energy & Work, kids navigate a hot-air balloon using fuel; in Force, they use a catapult to fire balls at an enemy cat; in Power, they try to land a spaceship on the moon; in Loading, they use a crane to load varied weights onto trucks; and in Mechanisms, they navigate a flying machine and collect cheese along the way.

Is it any good?

The difficulty levels of the games in AUTODESK DIGITAL STEAM APPLIED MECHANICS are uneven. Some games are quite challenging, almost to the point of frustration. Players don't get any hints, so kids have to read the scientific explanations in the "learn more" section. They'll try to use what they've learned, and they'll fail. Then they'll try again (and again and again...maybe). They may stop failing to win, but the information they're reading won't necessarily help.

Other games are relatively easy and don't always have good replay value. The app sometimes responds slowly and occasionally crashes. Still, it's free, and overall the mini-games are engaging with well-written explanations of concepts, so it's worth checking out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Encourage kids to tinker using available materials to create something useful. Tinkering is a great way to foster creativity and STEAM-oriented thinking.

  • Let them fail. Kids will learn and grow through failed attempts to solve engineering problems.

App details

  • Device: iPad
  • Subjects: Science: engineering, energy, physics
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, hypothesis-testing, prediction, problem solving
    Tech Skills: using and applying technology
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: May 16, 2013
  • Category: Education
  • Topics: Science and Nature
  • Size: 71.00 MB
  • Publisher: Autodesk Inc.
  • Version: 2.0
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 3.2 or later

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