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8 STEM holiday gifts for little engineers

-December 05, 2013

We must be doing something right. When our pre-school son sat on Santa’s lap last week he asked for a remote controlled car … so he could take it apart and see how it moved the car without wire attachment.

If you are looking for a few goodies this holiday season that will inspire STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) interest in the little ones in your life, look no further. Here we’ve compiled a short list of 8 gifts that will surely put a twinkle in your young engineer’s eye.

And we’re not showcasing the obvious chemistry sets and Legos here. These gifts focus more on building engineering skills and imaginative though processes than what you’ll find at the local toy store. Plus, some of them start at around $10.

Scroll through and have your Santa sack filled by the end of the day. And if you need a gift for the adults in your life (even those that may still act like children), check out this gift emporium for geeks.


Snap Circuits
There's no need for screwdrivers, soldering irons, electrical tape or testers. These Lego-style building kits allow kids to snap together basic parts for hundreds of experiments, including a periodic doorbell, photo sensor police siren, and flashing laser light. The manual is geared toward those without an engineering background, so not only will junior be able to follow the instructions, his philosophy-degree carrying dad will, too.

Price: sets range from $20 to $100+
Found on Amazon


Roominate
Doll houses are nice but pretty boring. With Roominate, your little girl or guy builds their own custom doll house through hands-on problem solving and circuits. And we do mean custom – houses can contain balconies, fan systems, working elevators, even water slides.

Price: Basic kit is $30, Deluxe kit is $50
Found on Amazon


MaKey MaKey
Your kids could be playing piano right now on bananas. MaKey MaKey is an invention kit that allows users to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the Internet.

The makers of MaKey MaKey are engineers themselves and share the following technical details on their web site:

MaKey MaKey is a printed circuit board with an ATMega32u4 microcontroller running Arduino Leonardo firmware. It uses the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol to communicate with your computer, and it can send keypresses, mouse clicks, and mouse movements. For sensing closed switches on the digital input pins, we use high resistance switching to make it so you can close a switch even through materials like your skin, leaves, and play-doh. We use a pull-up resistor of 22 mega ohms. This technique attracts noise on the input, so we use a moving window averager to lowpass the noise in software, saving money on hardware filtering. There are six inputs on the front of the board, which can be attached to via alligator clipping, soldering to the pads, or any other method you can think of. There are another 12 inputs on the back, 6 for keyboard keys, and 6 for mouse motion, which you can access with jumpers via the female headers, paper clips, or by alligator clipping creatively around the headers. If you wish to use a different set of keys, or otherwise change the behavior of your MaKey MaKey, you can simply reprogram it using the Arduino environment. By cutting a trace on the back of the board, you can disconnect the large pull-up resistors if you want to, which would be necessary in a small minority of Arduino projects.

Price: $50
Found on MaKeyMaKey.com


Rosie the Reverse Engineer
In this grade K-2 book, Rosie is a little girl who has been mocked by her peers for her engineer-like personality (sound familiar?). But when her great aunt, Rosie the Riveter, comes to town, she inspires Rosie to build and let her talents shine. Although Rosie’s machine does not work, Aunt Rosie reminds her that we only fail if we quit.

The book won’t help kids understand the history behind Rosie the Riveter but it will help them understand that it’s ok to be different, creative, and to use their imaginations.

Price: $10.53
Found on Amazon




GoldieBlox

Forget Barbie. Here’s a blonde with brains who wants little girls to engineer.

GoldieBlox construction toys help kids develop spatial skills and get them interested in math and science. And the company has launched a full-on campaign to target Jills, not just Jacks, aiming to get more girls into STEM.

The campaign is going so well, the below video went viral.



Price: $10-$30
Found on GoldieBlox.com and Amazon


Makedo
Give a kid a toy, and they’ll play with the box. Give the kid tools to create with a box, and you’ve got a winning gift.

Unlike scotch tape and glue, Makedo tools build and connect things quickly, neatly, and sturdily. Offering the “make anything” kit and “guided” kit, Makedo comes with three simple, re-usable tools: a safe saw, clamping re-clips, and lock hinges for creating joints.

Makedo tools can be used with various materials -- from cardboard boxes to plastic containers, foam packaging to fabric -- and encourage kids to build with whatever they have available. Check out the web site or below video for ideas.


Price: Kits range from $10 to $100+
Found on MyMakedo.com
 

Bedtime Math
When you just can’t read Goodnight Moon one more time, reach for Bedtime Math. With more than 100 math riddles, puzzles, and stories broken out over three age groups (wee ones, little kids, and big kids), this book aims to make math fun and part of your child’s bedtime routine.

Price: $10.79
Found on Amazon







Local science museum membership

Give the gift of experience. Instead of a boxed item, consider a year-long membership to a local science or children’s museum for the little ones on your holiday list. Search Google for museums nearby and look for ones that update their exhibits throughout the year, offering kiddo a chance to explore different STEM focuses.

And if you’re an aunt, uncle, godparent, or friend buying for someone else’s child, offer to spend the day at the museum with the child once or twice. The gift of one-on-one time with you will be priceless to the kid and their parents will surely appreciate the free babysitting.

Price: Varies


Also see:

10 geeky gifts under $30

The Geeky Gift Emporium

Friday Fun: Retail Therapy

Gifts for geek dads

5 Engineers: What gadget are you hoping to get this holiday season?

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