Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Software : Online Software
Science of Disney Imagineering: Roller Coaster Builder Computer and Whiteboard App

Science of Disney Imagineering: Roller Coaster Builder Computer and Whiteboard App

Spring 2012 Online Software
Ages: 10 - 14 yrs.
Download Price: $29.99
Platform: Windows

Whether you're child is learning at your home computer or sitting at a classroom computer, this interactive "imagineering" (where imagination meets engineering) program combines the fun of building an imaginative roller coaster with hands-on lessons in the laws and limits of science.

The goal is to build a roller coaster that, step by step, surmounts the many obstacles in its path. To start, load one of two story settings-the Jungle Theme or the Space Theme. Each presents five "checkpoints," or segments through different terrain of the overall coaster ride, each providing its own challenges-whether it's figuring out how to launch your roller coaster car over a rainforest waterfall or past craters on a moon-like surface. And, as Disney puts it, "only science can solve it!"

Each step involves positioning different pieces of roller coaster track from the 19-piece track menu, or items such as hydraulic lifters and spring accelerators from the tools menu. Each decision reinforces scientific principles, from trajectory and gravity to energy conservation and friction. It's all based on National Science Education curriculum standards.

Beyond the interactive element is a series of educational videos tied directly to the science involved in the game. So, if that roller coaster cart keeps falling short of its landing mark, players can click on the Video Resources for a quick lesson in gravity, trajectory, mechanical advantage, etc. There are Help icons here and there, but the help is only general, requiring players to think more rather than giving them the answer.

Ultimately, this is hard science. Students will start building their roller coaster tracks based on nothing more than fantasy, or instinct, or whim, only to face failure after failure until they begin applying problem-solving logic and scientific principles. While graphics, beyond the wild POV roller coaster trailer promo, are two-dimensional and rather basic, the lessons learned here are multi-dimensional. Disney has created an exceptional, imagination-sparking program that you can purchase and download online.

Don Oldenburg   ©2012 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Disney Educational Productions

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