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CODE Rover Control

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

Rover Control is the second game in Thinkfun’s CODE programming game series developed together with NASA Programmer, Mark Engelberg, for children eight and up. The game teaches children coding in a way that is screen-free and unplugged. Included is a Game Boards, a Challenge Booklet, and tokens. Rover Control immediately provides players with a challenge: a huge dust storm on Mars has wiped out several of the colored segments that the Mars Rovers are programmed to follow. Players must solve problem by following the clues on Challenge Cards and drawing a new path with erasable markers (included in the kit) on Game Boards for the Rovers. Challenge Cards invite players to make observations and define the problem before they begin on their solution. After generating ideas and making a plan of how to locate each color on a Game Board, the game encourages players to design a solution. Players are given a number of constraints when creating a solution, such as that Rovers can only move along colored pathways, two same-colored paths can’t come out of one node, and others. Once the solution is ready, players should test it by running one or both Rovers. The manual points out that testing can be done collaboratively, where one moves the Rover card while the other reads off the path from the Challenge Card. After analyzing the prototype against criteria and constraints of a Challenge Card and the game as a whole, improvements can be made if necessary. The manual encourages players to make improvements, because being wrong is not catastrophic. The provided Solution Booklet helps players check their solutions. In addition to a strong emphasis on coding, Rover Control also encourages children to practice computational thinking, critical and logical thinking, and perseverance as they learn how to solve tricky challenges that push them to think deeply.


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


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: Coding, computational thinking, critical thinking, programming, design, problem solving, logical thinking



Overall ratings:

  • Children Reviews
    • Rating:  3.67 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • “I like that it gives a visual idea of how to put down coding for the rover, kind of like a brain teaser for coding.” F, 10
      • “I like how I was able to use markers and set a specific spot for the rover to go to.” M, 12
  • Parents Reviews
    • Rating: NA
    • Feedback: NA
  • Engineering & STEM Experts Reviews
    • Rating: 4.67 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • “This game really pushes children to think and solve problems under predefined constraints. They must work to complete their mission to win!”
      • “I like that the manual stresses that testing can be done collaboratively. One player can move the Rover, while the other reads off the colored path from the Challenge Card.”
      • “It is cool that the game encourages planning, while also explaining how to redesign the code in case the first try doesn't work out. The dry erase factor allows kids to make corrections to their code which promotes redesign and debugging!”
      • “The context of the game provides a background to the problem which gives much more meaning to the solution that players must figure out.”