Zachy the Robot - Episode 1: The Leaning Tower of Robocity is an excellent universal interactive educational app that combines very well-done cartoon sections with interactive areas that nicely explain basic engineering concepts to children 3-7 years.
This wonderful app takes place in Robocity where boy robot, Zachy, his sister Nikki, and their friends have the task of fixing things that break in the city around them. The app expertly infuses S.T.E.M concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into this interactive cartoon, here specifically engineering - fixing things as they break, such as a lamppost
that is tipping to one side or a building that is also leaning, giving the player choices on what supports are needed to steady these structures.
I really appreciate how varied the support choices are, such as a triangle or circular support, as well as other choices that are too small or just right. The best part about these interactive sections is that the wrong choices are able to be played out and to see how these choices would effect the structure using the appropriate gravity and physics. The wrong answers
are explained very thoughtfully in a way that kids will comprehend - a very important feature as many times a person learns more from his mistakes than from correct answers, which are also nicely explained. I am very impressed by the ability of this app to explain these engineering concepts in such an articulate fashion.
It is also good how the tasks at hand are also varied in term of problems to solve. Later, after the small job of fixing a lamp pole is complete, the gang must tackle a larger problem of a building on the verge of collapse, and photos of real landmarks like the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower are used to learn some other basic engineering concepts about building structures, like how the bottom of the structure is wider at the base than at the top. There is also a great lesson to be learned when a robot stretches himself high in order to support the building in question and he himself needs some supports as stretching makes him prone to toppling over as well.
Not only is this app educational, but the cartoon section is excellent as well, reminding me of the best programming PBS has to offer - high praise to be sure. The animation is excellent and colors used are very bright and engaging, as are the narration and music that are used. Of note is the use of five fingers per hand on these robots - something not commonly seen in animation, a detail that stands out, adding to the richness that make these robots seem utterly human and relatable.
I really like how the interactive sections and the photos used of real structures have a subtle windowpane pattern, reminiscent of grid paper used in drafting which can be faintly seen, all the better to see which end of a building is wider, or the tipping of a structure - a very nice touch.
If you ask an engineer what toys they had growing up that had encouraged an interest in science later in life, a typical answer may be erector set or a working gears toy. I think this application can be added to the list of activities that can create an invaluable appreciation in science and engineering. I am very excited to share this app with my son, and I can’t want for the other chapters of Zachy the Robot to come out as well, focusing on other S.T.E.M subjects.