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CODE On the Brink

Lower Age: 8+
Price: $14.99
Year Added: 2017

On the Brink is the first game in Thinkfun’s CODE programming game series developed together with NASA Programmer, Mark Engelberg, for children eight years and up. The game is unique as it teaches children coding in a “screen-free,” “unplugged” mode. The kit comes with a Challenge Booklet that contains 40 Game Boards with levels that range in difficulty from Beginner to Expert. Each Game Board has a combination of red, blue, orange, and white squares that represents the Robot’s path. A Control Panel with three sections of different colors is provided, where players can organize their Movement Cards. On the Brink challenges players to construct three Procedures for each color of the Control Panel to advance the Robot from START to FINISH. After observing a path on the Game Board, generating ideas, and planning a solution, players can test their solution by moving a Robot Token across the squares. Several constraints are outlined in the manual as Movement Rules and relate to limitations posed by colored squares and Movement Cards. Beyond an introduction to coding, On the Brink also helps children improve spatial reasoning skills as they move the Robot along a “treacherous” path and computational thinking skills as they create Procedures that get executed multiple times. The game also teaches children coding vocabulary, such as “procedure” and instruction set. The game provides many hours of content as children move through the challenges and learn new skills as they go!


Engineering thinking and design practices the gift encourages children to do or learn about: Define a problem, ask questions about the problem, make observations, idea generation, plan a solution, try the solution, test the solution, analyze the solution, redesign a solution, make improvements to their solution, refine ideas, recognize patterns, optimize their solution


Engineering text or context explicitly provided by the gift: A problem to be solved by developing a new or improved object, tool, or process, a user, criteria, constraints


Additional practices and skills needed by engineers that were addressed by the gift: Spatial reasoning skills, coding, computational thinking, programming, problem solving, perseverance, logical thinking


Overall ratings:

  • Children Reviews
    • Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • "It was a challenging, but fun way to learn about programming." F, 7
  • Parents Reviews
    • Rating: NA
    • Feedback: NA
  • Engineering & STEM Experts Reviews
    • Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • “Through this game, kids can learn how to interact with/ program robots. They can develop critical thinking skills through specific placement and order of commands for the robot.”
      • “I thought that this game hit upon a lot of engineering thinking and design practices. The problem to be solved is navigating a robot from START to FINISH. Players make observations of colored path on a challenge card, generate ideas about a solution, and try the solution by moving a robot figure across colorful squares as directed by the Procedure.”
      • “I like that this game provides children with a problem, which is getting the robot to the finish. It then gives them constraints to work within and prompts them to retry their solution until they succeed.”