Since ancient times, people have made machines to make it easier to do work. The machines we use today have become more complex, yet they are composed of the same simple machines. Understanding how simple machines work is beneficial, especially when you consider the fact that we use these machines every day.
Which is why we highly recommend this latest app from Brooklyn-based app maker Tinybop, Simple Machines. It’s a playful app in which you explore six simple machines and discover how they work behind the scenes.
Simple Machines for Kids
Simple Machines is a sandbox-style app with no specific goal to achieve or high score to beat. The idea is to let you experiment with each machine in an interactive playground, adjusting the input force or changing its components to see what will happen.
For example, using a first-class lever, you launch boulders to try and destroy a castle. You can adjust the distance between the fulcrum from the load, or adjust the input force to change the strength, distance, and direction of your shot. Once the castle has crumbled, a dragon emerges from its ruins.
An interesting feature that sets the app apart is a pull-in slide that overlays the scene with indicator arrows. Tracing the arrows, you can learn how a machine reacts to your input. In the lever scenario above, you can even see the trajectory of each of your shot.
The app includes six simple machines to experiment with: levers, wheel and axles, pulleys, screws, inclined planes, and wedges. Each machine features a unique environment filled with fun surprises. In addition to destroying a castle with a lever, you will travel through villages and cities on bicycles and scooters (wheel and axles), launch objects into space with a set of pulleys, lift fish tanks with screws, make music using a virtual pinball machine (inclined planes), and split iceberg with wedges.
Parents Need to Know
Simple Machines is designed to integrate with STEM curriculum. It implements a realistic physics engine, which allows kids to alter and test each machine to learn about various physics concepts including force and motion, actions and reactions, inputs and outputs, and tradeoffs. I would recommend the app for students in grades 2-6, but younger kids should be able to enjoy the app as well.
It should be noted that the app supports multiple user profiles. Parents or teachers can also create a free Dashboard account to receive the latest news from the developer and download the free companion handbook (also downloadable from the developer’s website). The handbook is especially interesting as it describes the concepts behind the app and offers discussion topics and activity suggestions to help you support your child’s learning.
The app also includes a label feature, which can be turned on to reveal the names of the components of each machine. The labels are available in more than 40 languages, including Chinese, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, and more. You can specify which languages should appear from the parental dashboard.
In terms of safety, the app is quite safe. It contains no third-party ads and no in-app purchases, and all link are secured with a gesture. It also doesn’t require an Internet connection to play.
Things I Like
True to its open-exploration concept, in Simple Machines you learn how each machine works by messing with it and just seeing what happens. In my experience, it’s the simplest but most effective form of learning. What makes the app so engaging is the little rewards you get by experimenting with different things; for example, the more energy you have to exert to spin the wheels on a bike, the more tired your cyclist will be.
Like all Tinybop apps, the app looks and feel polished. The physics engine mimics real-world physics closely, so you can really feel the difference caused by a little change to a machine. You’ll notice that the more pulleys you add, the easier it is to lift items up. You’ll also notice that the longer you hold a spring, the more force it releases.
Overall, Simple Machines is a terrific app that kids and adults alike will enjoy. It’s one of those apps that will get you genuinely interested to learn, even if you aren’t exactly the biggest science geeks around. It is, after all, much more appealing than paper diagrams.
Tinybop continues to wow us with its knack for creating sleek, educational digital toys. Their latest offering, Simple Machines, is a polished experience that will help you learn physics without you even realizing it. If your kids are excited about STEM, this app will be right up in their alley. If they aren’t, this app will probably make them change their minds.
If you like Simple Machines, I highly encourage you to get the Tinybop Explorers bundle. It gives you all four apps in Tinybop’s fantastic The Explorer’s Library series at a great deal. Get the bundle here.
App was provided for our honest review.
Tinybop is a Brooklyn-based studio of designers, engineers, and artists building educational apps for curious kids. Their approach is to build apps wheere kids play and learn by diving into big ideas, seeing how things work, and making connections about the world they live in.
You should also check out their other apps that we’ve reviewed:
Homes by Tinybop is app number three in The Explorer’s Library. It lets you take a peek inside four different homes from around the world, exploring the nooks and crannies to discover what makes them unique. It’s a neat exploration game for kids as well as adults who enjoy learning about world cultures.
The Robot Factory is a beautiful robot builder where kids can mix and match 50+ unique parts to experiment with different designs, then see if their construction holds up in the treacherous test arena. The app supports multiple profiles, so more than one child can play on the same device.