This iPhone, iPad and iPod app “shows to go you” that science, especially physics, can taught in an interesting way that it is not dry and expressionless as was the case with a few of my junior and high school teachers. Actually, it can be fun, as the information on the app says, for the whole family. Go Car Go also demonstrates that it does not take rocket science to teach science. This is a very simple app that clearly shows how different physical properties and design will alter a car’s performance. If I “get” it, anyone can.
You are given a wide variety of different options for constructing your own automobile. You are given the pieces of your car—simple circles (wheels) and squares (car parts) and just have to drag them over to the main screen to design your car. Let’s say, for example, that you vary the weight of your new creation. What will happen as you put it into gear and it starts driving up and down hills? This brings back memories of those Boy Scouts car derbies I did my sons. I wish I had the app then.
In terms of physics, the concept deals with mass, weight, and inertia—different words, same concept. Mass is the amount of matter in an object; bricks have a lot more mass than sponges. Weight is the gravitational force exerted on an object. Weight depends on the mass of the object. The earth will pull on the brick more, so it is heavier. Mass always remains the same; weight changes. So, if you make two cars, the one with the greater mass will weigh more. OK. Now add in inertia. That’s the tendency of objects to resist motion. A still object remains still unless a force causes it to move. An object in motion stays in motion unless a force makes it stop. Finally, the more the mass, the more the inertia or more difficult something is to stop. When I see a chocolate candy bar, it is difficult for me to stop moving.
So, who cares? Right? I just went through all of this explanation to demonstrate that just by making a couple of cars, you can actually see all these physics concepts in action. You are actually learning and not even realizing it. With Go Car Go, you are given 48 different courses, each with its own set of obstacles. When you make your car, you can guess what is going to happen once it gets going and see if you are right. There is also a Sandbox Mode to let you compete with others for who travels the longest.
I love the very simple stick drawings on this app. It does not clutter up the science with a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles. However, do not just hand this over to your kid and say, “Here. This will help with your physics questions.” The concepts are explained—easily—but having an adult read along and provide some explanation would be helpful for younger kids who are just getting into Isaac Newton. There are no ages listed that I could find. Elementary school children can just have fun building and watching their cars move along or flip over. Junior high school kids will need some assistance. High schoolers and adults—you too—will have fun and even learn a thing or two.