Widget Workshop: The Mad Scientist's Laboratory allows kids eight and up to experiment with math and science in a fun, open-ended way. They can choose to solve puzzles included in the game or make their own widgets, which do things like making a dog bark or counting how many seconds are in a year.
The manual explains many of the concepts kids will run across in their explorations, such as scientific notation and logic gates. It also explains the many parts that kids will find in the game. At the back of the book is a "Mad Scientist's Diploma" that kids get to fill out after they have completed all of the puzzles in the game.
Widget Workshop is a "software toy" designed for children. The game is intended to teach children the principles of science, and encourage them to apply their creativity to invent their own devices. In the game, the player selects different components that perform certain functions (such as an input device, a power switch, a randomizer, a logic operator, or an output display) and links them together to form a "widget". Widgets can be made for many purposes, such as a puzzle, a calculator, a game, a logic gate, or a Rube Goldberg contraption. The game is open-ended, although it does come with a set of pre-made widgets and a book of challenges.
One of Maxis' most underrated games in my opinion, Widget Workshop is a neat computerized "science kit" that lets kids devise gadgets, perform experiments, and design puzzles by using various parts. Like most other Maxis "toys," Widget Workshop is more of a sandbox simulation than a game: kids can combine various parts - such as timers, switches, logic and electrical components - and then just observe what happens. This way, kids are encouraged to experiment and be creative, but at the same time the wide range of widgets and possibility means they will likely seek your help to extract the program's full potential.
The interface is extremely easy to use. All the parts are shown on-screen, and they can be dragged and dropped on to the "workspace" area. Mouse clicks are all that is required to connect them all. For example, you can click a keypad widget, connect it to the the solar system "superpart," attach a "multiplier" to it. Finally, push the green "Go" button to see what happens. Going through the tutorial once or twice is recommended for the younger kids, so they know what each button does.
If creating their own inventions aren't enough, kids can try to solve the game's 25 challenging puzzles, or conduct 30 pre-defined experiments described in the "Workshop Activities book." The wide range of widgets - ranging from everyday objects like timers and switches, to more complex equipments like the magnifier, logic gates, and thermometer - means that kids will learn a wide array of scientific principles when they are having fun. Logic, gravity, sound, light, weather, electricity, computer programming, and arithmetics are some of the subjects kids will learn without knowing it. Definitely one of the best ways to learn about math and science, Widget Workshop is highly recommended for kids of all ages.
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