Tech That Teaches: 15 Smart Apps for Curious Kids

iStock
iStock

Your kids may spend more time staring at screens on smartphones, tablets, and computers than books, but that downtime can still be educational. Check out these apps that can teach children of all ages far more than a game of Candy Crush—and might even inspire them to learn and live better.

1. HOPSCOTCH; FREE

Want your children to get a headstart on coding when all they want to do is play games? Introduce them to Hopscotch. The iOS-compatible app, targeted toward kids ages 9 to 11, teaches users to create games using simple tools and tutorials—whether they want to replicate existing ones like Angry Birds or dream up their own.

Find it: iOS

2. DUOLINGO; FREE

It’s no secret that starting early makes it easier to learn a second language, but things get even easier with a fun app like Duolingo. Kids can choose from a substantial list of languages—including French, Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, and more—and learn through bite-sized lessons that feel more like games. Plus, this app is also great for adults. With a little screen time, family dinners could soon be in a foreign language!

Find it: iOS, Android

3. MONSTER MATH 2; FREE

Monster Math 2

There’s no better way to beef up math skills than by fighting monsters! This app, targeted towards elementary students, comes with a customizable curriculum and even adheres to Common Core standards.

Find it: iOS

4. MAGOOSH; FREE

Magoosh

It’s hard to spice up study sessions for standardized tests like the SATs, but Magoosh does its best. Its apps, like the Vocabulary Builder, offer fun and efficient ways for younger high school students to get a headstart on test prep without feeling overwhelmed or pressured.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. STAR WALK; $3

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Star Walk

This app is a one-two punch: It will get kids outside and get them to shoot for the stars. Star Walk is an astronomy guide that’s sure to spark curiosity about the solar system by notifying users of upcoming astronomical events, pointing out the position of constellations and planets, and much more.

Find it: iOS, Android

6. TREBLE CAT; $5

Treble Cat will make requests for more screen time music to your ears. This simple game—great for musical beginners of all ages—comes with 10 levels to unlock and, as the name implies, teaches players to read the notes of the treble clef.

Find it: iOS, Android

7. READ ME STORIES; FREE

Upgrade their bedtime stories. The free app aimed at beginner readers—age 5 and under—comes with a new talking picture book every day. Each story is meant to teach new concepts and words. Young readers can even tap unfamiliar words and letters to sound them out.

Find it: iOS, Android

8. EARTH 3D - AMAZING ATLAS; $3

Kids can have the entire world at their fingertips with Earth 3D - Amazing Atlas. Users of all ages can spin and zoom in on a variety of world maps as well as learn facts about different countries and cities and much more.

Find it: iOS

9. THIS IS MY FOOD - NUTRITION FOR KIDS; $3

An appreciation for food and cooking can serve a kid for a lifetime. On top of teaching users about nutrition and food classification, This Is My Food may also inspire them to get hands-on with their own meals, thanks to the app’s recently added recipes section. The app is aimed at kids ages 6 to 8 and can also be purchased as part of a “Science for Kids” bundle which also includes educational apps about mechanics and meteorology.

Find it: iOS

10. QUIZLET; FREE

Not all learning apps should be completely separate from the classroom—that’s where Quizlet comes in. The app offers children a fun and convenient way to study on the go. Turn screen time into study time by creating flashcards, perusing study materials uploaded by other users, and more.

Find it: iOS, Android

12. THE HUMAN BODY; $4

Who needs Operation? The Human Body app offers a detailed, interactive model of the body with guts that actually gurgle and a heart that actually beats. This Tinybop app also can be purchased in a bundle which features education apps about the earth, machines, homes, and plants.

Find it: iOS

13. BLUEPRINT 3D; $1

Blueprint 3D features over 300 levels that put the user's spatial reasoning skills to the test. Each level starts with apparently random dots and lines that must be organized into a blueprint image. For added fun, users can also create their own puzzles.

Find it: iOS, Android

14. LEGO MOVIE MAKER; FREE

This movie-making app will encourage double the creativity: First kids will be excited to build more LEGO creations, then they’ll be inspired to turn their characters and buildings into stories. Using LEGO Movie Maker, your aspiring filmmaker can create stop motion movies as well as add special effects.

Find it: iOS

15. TRIVIA CRACK; FREE

Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack is as addicting as the name implies. Kids will only crave more once they start one-on-one trivia match-ups with friends, featuring questions about science, entertainment, art, geography, sports, and history. As an added bonus, this app is a trifecta: It’s entertaining, and relies on both knowledge and strategy.

Find it: iOS, Android

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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