Inventioneers by Filimundus AB (Free, iTunes/Android) offers elementary ages through adult the opportunity to learn physics by making your own inventions. The free download of Inventioneers offers one open “chapter.”  This one chapter is more than enough to tell you whether you’d like to make the one-time purchase of $1.99 to open five other chapters and the Create Your Own Invention section.  Each chapter is actually a setting in which you create inventions to solve problems.  There are 42 “pages” in each chapter, each page offering a progressively more difficult task. 

You build inventions, taking forces like gravity into account, to accomplish tasks.  To start with, the app lets you work on simple problems, only giving you the props you need to make your inventions.  Sort of like handing you all the pieces to a slingshot, telling you that a rock needs to hit a can and letting you figure out how to put the pieces together to accomplish the task.  At first, you aren’t quite sure what to do.  Then, through experimentation, you figure it out and success lures you on.  While the chapters give you a task to accomplish, the Create section allows you to imagine your own task, sparking even greater creativity.

This app isn’t for preschoolers.  It would be appropriate for parents and elementary kids to sit down together and work through the problems (if the parent could resist taking over!)  The app has the potential to spark all kinds of conversations and Rube Goldberg machines.  The vast number of possibilities and the educational aspects make the expansion of this free app worth the in-app purchase price.