Algodoo Does Phun Physics Stuff, Educationally

Algodoo: the Algoryx Physics Engine for Education

Think of Algodoo as a virtual playground. Algodoo brings the sophisticated Algoryx physics engine to anyone’s computer or tablet, to learn or to play–and the boundary between the two is pretty blurry no matter how you use it. Watch the magic unfold in this demo vid from Algodoo.

I learned of Algodoo from a friend who tells me she knows a five-year-old who can play with it on a tablet for hours at a time. If a five-year-old can figure out this physics engine and play with it all day, I figured I could wrap my mind around it.

Algod’oh

So I downloaded Algodoo onto my Macbook Pro and gave it a whirl. Clearly I must have grown up at some point because at first I could hardly make anything that was very entertaining. I sketched various awkward contraptions that immediately toppled to the ground or jerked spastically upon hitting play rather than doing what I intended.

Then inspiration began to hit and I finally managed to build something. There was a spinning wheel with lasers surrounded by refracting prisms hung on springs. It was a grand light show with colored beams streaking through the black void of the preset “optics” theater. I reveled in my accomplishment for a minute, but I could not resist the urge to immediately shake the whole contraption, yelling “Earthquake!” Multicolor lights and madness ensued as the thing settled down into ruin.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t grow up. It was then I began to appreciate Algodoo.

Algodope

Apparently enthusiasts can make some pretty next-level stuff with Algodoo (and with its predecessor, Phun–just search YouTube). For example, folks have built successful automobile sims like this one.

That’s what’s genius here. The basic functionality is easy enough that a five-year-old can entertain himself with working, creative inventions, but Algodoo also supports very technical precision that allows advanced users to simulate machines of considerable complexity. With Algodoo a kid can cultivate an interest in science by, for example, building a medieval catapult–without doing so with actual timber in the actual backyard, and in result razing your neighbor’s actual house. And as easily as a kid can play with it and learn science by osmosis, an instructor can put together a simulation for the classroom to illustrate a concept.

The Algodoo app is currently free for Win and Mac and costs a mere Lincoln on the App store for iPad. See: http://www.algodoo.com/

About Bret Norwood

Bret Norwood is a staff blogger for Learning Laboratory in addition to other roles, including UI design and content development for Study Putty, our free memorization tool for chemistry and many other course topics. He is also a published writer of literary fiction–see BretNorwood.com

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