Friday, January 25, 2013

Fantastic Contraption: A Physics Simulation

Okay, it's a game. But it'll teach your students some physics concepts and problem-solving strategies in the midst of playing a game. (And who ever said you can't learn anything by playing a game?)

The name of the game is Fantastic Contraption. Basic concept: move the pink block from the blue "start" area to the pink "goal" area. You have several different types of wheels and rods at your disposal to build your fantastic contraption to complete each task.

I like the integrated tutorial to help get students started. Basically, the first three challenges give users some coaching to understand how the game works. Then the challenges get harder. And harder. You have to start thinking creatively to solve these challenges! The best part: there are many roads to Rome; for most challenges, there are multiple possible solutions. This means the game stays fresh longer.

I successfully used this game with 7th and 8th graders. I tried using it with 5th graders once; they reached their frustration level pretty quickly. I've also showed it to my college students, and some of them were totally enthralled with it. (It is pretty engaging!) I could see using it for a high school physical science class, or a supplement to a physics class as well.

Give it a whirl--it's fun, and you'll learn something at the same time!

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