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Tinkerbox inspires teens’ inner engineer

Autodesk has come up with a design tool/game for teens called Tinkerbox that will awaken the designer/engineer in all of them.


A Tinkerbox contraption.

Photo: Autodesk

SAN RAFAEL, Calif.: Looking for a way to interest your kids in something other than a career in the arts? Autodesk has come up with a design tool/game for teen elementary and highschool students called Tinkerbox that will awaken the designer/engineer in all of them.

The design software firm, based in San Rafael, Calif., introduced an early version of the iPad app at Autodesk University (AU) in Las Vegas Nov. 30-Dec. 2, and it’s just now available from your local Apple App Store.

Inspired by the convoluted contraptions that perform simple tasks invented by Pulitzer-prize winning engineer, inventor and cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970), Tinkerbox teaches basic engineering concepts. Budding designer/engineers can plug into the app’s interesting science facts and choose from a pallet of 25 elements, including wheels, motors, conveyors, fasteners, shafts, balls, boxes and other assorted doo-dads and thing-a-ma-jigs to create their own contraptions.

Tinkerbox is a response to the shrinking ranks of engineers and a poll of US tweens and teens who think science and math are too hard, said Buzz Kross, senior vice-president of Autodesk manufacturing during the AU session.

Autodesk asked US 1,000 students between 12 and 17 about their attitudes toward the academic subjects that provide a foundation for a career in engineering. More than half of them (54%) believe science and technology, and engineering and math (53%) are important to their careers, but 16% believe these subject areas are too hard.

Kross said 28% think cool technology [web, apps and games] make engineering more interesting and easier to understand.

“We’re trying to help them understand engineering principles at a deeper level,” he said. “[Tinkerbox] shows them how engineering, physics work with design.”

Autodesk provides free access to its software and accompanying curricula though the Autodesk Education Community.
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