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Turing Tumble

Lower Age: 8+
Website: https://store.turingtumble.com/products/turing-tumble
Price: $69.95
Year Added: 2018
Product Video: https://youtu.be/GieuKukiB3Q

Turing Tumble, a puzzle game by Turing Tumble LLC., looks like a Plinko board at first glance, but its appearance belies a surprising degree of complexity. The gift contains the board itself and its stand, 21 each of red and blue marbles, and 61 elements such as catcher baskets, gears, crossovers, and “bits” (binary-state flippers that can be used to store information and even perform logic operations), as well as an instruction booklet that details 60 challenges alongside an engaging graphic novel narrative.

Players are put in the shoes of a crashed astronaut who discovers a strange mechanical computer on an alien planet. To find a way for her to get back home, they discover they need to repair certain incomplete segments of this computer. Challenges start off simply, asking users to simply move marbles from the beginning to end of the track. Quickly, though, the puzzles become much more complex, introducing the “bit” components that form the computational heart of Turing Tumble and requiring the player-built machines to generate “outputs” in the form of irregular sequences of marbles. Moving forward, players learn about “registers”, or constructions where “bits” can be used to store numerical data in binary format, and how gear components can be used to transmit information from one area on the board to another. The last twenty challenges, where all the different components need to be used simultaneously, are difficult enough that even some adults may be challenged by them!

Players will be helped substantially by observing what has and hasn’t worked in their past solutions and extrapolating from them to generate new ideas, and the given challenges are successful at encouraging positive engineering thinking traits like an understanding of computational logic and low-level coding, while also presenting an opportunity for users to develop spatial reasoning skills. While Turing Tumble is impressively novel and does a great job of presenting the mechanics of computational devices in a highly unique context, at times the difficulty curve presented by the challenges can be quite steep, and some challenges in particular would benefit from more player guidance and hints.

In essence, Turing Tumble provides a tactile introduction into machine logic and educates its users about the “nuts and bolts” that govern how every digital device works, from convenience-store calculators to modern supercomputers. For any logic puzzle lover, whether a middle-schooler or an adult, Turing Tumble is an exciting new challenge that may have a couple useful concepts to teach.

Engineering thinking and design practices the gift encourages children to do or learn about: Define a problem, learn about the problem, generate ideas, plan a solution, create a prototype or process, test the solution, analyze a solution, make improvements to the solution, recognize patterns, apply science knowledge

Engineering text or context explicitly provided by the gift: A problem to be solved, a client, criteria, constraints

Additional practices and skills needed by engineers that were addressed by the gift: Spatial Reasoning skills, computational thinking, critical thinking, programming/coding, evidence-based reasoning, problem solving, perseverance, logical thinking, iterative design

Overall ratings:

  • Childrens Reviews
    • Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • “I like how it is just like coding with all the trial and error. It is also very satisfying to watch.” m, 11
      • “I like the physics that hit has and it makes it seem fun!” m, 9
  • Parents Reviews
    • Rating: 4.8 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • “It was easy to set up. My child really enjoyed the different activities and how they continued to get harder. He related it to coding with the trial and error. I was pleased to see that it held my child’s attention and it wasn’t a screen!”
      • “Fun and engaging.”
  • Engineering and STEM Experts Reviews
    • Rating: 4.8 out of 5.0
    • Feedback:
      • “This gift promotes engineering thinking and design. Design constraints and criteria are given from the outset, in the form of starting configurations, piece limitations, and an end-goal (this is something that one of our first year engineering courses emphasizes). Players must take what they learned from the previous puzzles and apply their knowledge in new ways. The game makes it clear that there is no "correct" answer, and encourages players with unique solutions to post them on their website. Solutions are provided if a player gets stuck, but they're encouraged to instead ‘take a break and come back to the puzzle later.’”
      • “The story is quite interesting and does a good job of giving players a break and keeping them interested. The community page on their website is a nice touch, but currently underpopulated. There are a total of 20 additional, user-created puzzles on the website at time of review. I expect that this number will increase as more people get their hands on the product. There is an emulator available online, but it does not appear to be official. Things get hard pretty fast once bits are introduced, a bit more coaching would be beneficial. $70 seems steep to me, but I'm a cheapskate. At $50 it'd be perfect.”
      • “This toy promote engineering thinking and design through the process it takes the user through to build, test and review the solution they have created. Primarily, the user must align the pieces appropriate with the constraints to meet the objective of the puzzle. Then they are able to test the solution to see if it works properly, and if it does not they are able to collect real-time data about how and where the solution goes wrong. Finally, if necessary, based off this data the user it then able to fix their solution and test again, and continue this process of testing and reviewing until the solution meets the objective within the constraints.”
      • “I found this gift to be good as it does exemplify many principle engineering design traits which are important in real-world applications. The player has the opportunity to understand the context of the problem, plan a solution which meets the constraints, and test and review the solution until it meets the objective of the problem. I felt as though the setting up of the game board was slightly more complex than the beginning gameplay with minimal instruction provided. Overall, I would highly recommend the game to the age group it is recommended for.”
      • "This toy gives the child a problem to be solved and a desired output which relates to the design process of an engineer being given a problem and having to find a solution to give a desired output. It also involves creative problem solving skills and anticipating how an outcome will work out. I think the guidebook is very user friendly and adds to the experience with the comic book/magazine feel."
      • “It promotes engineering design by encouraging its players to learn how to use certain pieces of the set to achieve different results. It also has the player learn from many mistakes and plan a solution in order to advance to further more difficult levels. Its focus on binary programming and integration of very basic programming language is sure to prepare whatever child that plays this. Fun for all boys and girls of all ages!”