Making physics fun!

It’s no secret that U.S. public schools are pitifully behind in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) when compared to other countries. Only 38% of 4th graders and 33% of 8thgraders are proficient or advanced in math. By the 8th grade, U.S. students rank well below students in Singapore, the Czech Republic, Japan, Bulgaria, and Russia in science. And more than half of all U.S. physical science teachers don’t have a college degree in science—or even a minor.

Can one mobile app pull our nation’s students out of the slums of low STEM scores to compete mano a mano with the likes of Singapore?

Probably not. But the games are still fun to play.

Autodesk, a 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software company, on Thursday evening announced the debut of TinkerBox for iPhone and iPod Touch, a new mobile gaming app that inspires interest and creative thinking in solving physics and mechanical engineering challenges.

The app comes with two modes: puzzles and invent. In the puzzles mode, users are presented with a series of mechanical puzzles to solve by inserting gadgets, reassembling parts, and customizing switches. The challenges start off fairly easy (I’m apparently a whiz at dropping a ball into a bucket), but increase in difficulty with each new problem. Players can also customize the difficulty level at the beginning by jumping straight into a harder level.

The invent mode lets players design their own contraptions, complete with zooming and panning features to get a closer look at your invention as you’re designing it, switches to change flow directions for conveyor belts or motors, toggle buttons to turn specific features on and off, and even a button that provides brief power surges.

The latest iPhone- and iPod Touch-ready version of the app follows the February debut of the TinkerBox iPad app, but seeing as how most kids and teenagers have an iPod Touch and not an iPad of their own, this version will likely be a much bigger hit. Furthermore, Autodesk also offers users free access to its 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software, complete with accompanying curricula via the Autodesk Educational Community.

“TinkerBox exposes players to math and engineering principles in an engaging and light-hearted way,” said Samir Hanna, VP of Consumer Products at Autodesk, in a statement. “Extending the app to iPhone and iPod touch was a natural step in our quest to make science and engineering more fun, accessible and appealing to young people and adults alike.”

Autodesk, Inc., is a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Customers across the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, and media and entertainment industries — including the last 16 Academy Award winners for Best Visual Effects — use Autodesk software to design, visualize and simulate their ideas. Since its introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982, Autodesk continues to develop the broadest portfolio of state-of-the-art software for global markets. For additional information about Autodesk, visit

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