Can apps like Crazy Gears help encourage an interest in Science in both boys and girls?

March 26, 2015 Published by

As a female Engineering graduate myself the subject of encouraging girls into science has always been close to my heart. In the work I do in reviewing and recommending good apps for children I constantly look out for apps that successfully encourage an interest in science and particular those that are gender neutral. Crazy Gears, the new app launched by Seven Academy launched this week (available on iTunes here), particularly stood out for us in this respect so we were quick to review the app with both boys and girls to see for ourselves.

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Crazy Gears focuses on communicating a range of science concepts surrounding mechanics such as relating to gears, pulleys, chains and more. Apps and toys in this area often classically focus on vehicles and whilst we, at Fundamentally Children, would never suggest vehicle toys are ‘boys toys’ they are perceived by many as such. This can mean girls have less opportunity to explore such toys or simply that they are subtly steered away from science by opinions like this before they ever have a real chance to decide whether it might be an area in which they have skill and interest.

Crazy Gears conversely focuses on helping children to understand how the various components work providing a grounding in the science concepts without focusing on what they are used to build. The colours and designs included are gender neutral and appealing and each level is fun and engaging for boys and girls.

The app was inspired by Seymour Papert who was himself fascinated by gears. As Seven Academy explain:

“Crazy Gears was conceived not only as a tribute to him, but with the hope of providing a child with the inspiration to discover and understand the physical properties of mechanisms found in their everyday lives.”

The children we tested with ranged in age from 4 – 9 and included a mix of boys and girls. It was equally enjoyed by both with several asking immediately if they could play again when their turn was over.

Whilst younger children needed a little help to get started they quickly got to grips with the game and found the levels fun but challenging. They took on board the principles of what they were doing too, and several of them could also explain how this related to real world actions such as “So you have to turn it, then you put it on.” Boy, aged 5This confirms how successful the app is in communicate the science principles underpinning play.

We were delighted to see the girls enjoying this game as much as the boys. As one girl said “This is a great game” Girl, aged 5 a view shared by nearly all who tried it. We really feel this sort of app is exactly what is needed to help encourage girls to develop an interest in STEM subjects.Crazy_Gears_app_3

Not only does the app help children understand the function of tools like gears, pulleys, chains and beyond each level  require creative problem solving skills. They get increasingly more challenging teaching more advanced concepts as you progress, yet being engaging and achievable. The goal is always the same – to pull across the blind to reveal the next level.

We’ve watched children as young as 4 progress through the app and enjoy it with a little support and older children thoroughly immersed in completing each level either working alone or with friends. I admit to finding it surprisingly addictive myself – it really is satisfying to solve each challenge and there is to me a real beauty in gears and their synchronised movement when correctly interlinked.

There is a clear place for this app for use in-home, providing a fun challenge for a wide age range, surreptitiously developing their cognitive thinking, experimentation skills and science knowledge as they play. However, within an educational environment such as within school science classes this has even more potential. We were delighted to see the detailed parent and teacher handbook available alongside this app which shows how carefully Seven Academy have considered the learning opportunities around this app. This not only helps parents and teachers to understand and talk to children about the various tools (providing useful science information and even links to youtube videos for more details) but also provides, as Seven Academy themselves put it, how “Crazy Gears can serve as a catalyst for many conversations about some of the Big Ideas in science” including Gravity, Friction and Tension. This app would be gold dust for any physics teacher keen to discuss any of these concepts in a novel way.

Crazy_Gears_app_4We loved Busy Shapes, an earlier Seven Academy app with a similar theme, and we were delighted to see children in testing enjoying Crazy Gears as much if not more. This is an app we genuinely can’t wait to spread the word about.

We challenge you to give it a try and let us know your comments – do your boys and girls enjoyed it as much as our little testers? Might this app be part of the journey for your budding engineer? Might this be the subtle push your daughter needs to foster her interest in science? We’d love to hear what you think.

 

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