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

Circuit Maze™

Circuit Maze™

Spring 2016 Puzzles
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: ThinkFun Inc.
Price: $29.99

Circuit Maze combines the challenging fun of logic puzzles with the educational experience of building electrical circuits. In a series of sixty increasingly difficult puzzles, each building on the experience of the earlier levels, players have to place circuit pieces to light the LED units while meeting the restraints of the puzzle card.

Players have to learn a bit of circuitry in order to make the puzzles work, so the manual provides a clear and simple explanation of resistance in series and in parallel, switches, open and short circuits (and the risks thereof), and directional current flow through LEDs. Unlike in many circuitry learning kits, a player cannot blindly follow directions to achieve the goal, but must actively consider the construction of the circuit, making this a surprisingly effective teacher of beginning electronics, at least through the beginning levels. Our testers experimented with how the LEDs dim when placed in series or in parallel as opposed to being activated alone and Mom explained the math behind it, drawing on her somewhat rusty electrical engineering education. And a simple Google search will lead to simple mathematical explanations for the resistance effects for those players who are interested in a greater understanding of the effect.

It would take most children (and, for that matter, adults) many hours or even days to work through all the puzzles; the "beginner" level challenges can be finished in a few minutes each, but "expert" puzzles may take much more advanced reasoning (or sometimes a fair amount of patience and luck). A wide age range of players can enjoy the conundrums posed by the cards; our testers took turns working through the challenges but also took time out just to play with the circuit pieces. It was especially fun to build a switched traffic light inspired by the red, yellow, and green LEDs of the set. In short, Circuit Maze is an excellent next step for a child who already enjoys logic games and is interested in learning some science while trying something slightly more advanced.

Emily Crawford   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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ThinkFun Inc.

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