Dec 5, 2013

Holiday gift giving for your budding, current, or should-have been engineer

A timely segue from my series on Girls and STEM: What to give your engineer for the holidays. Well, I made a few purchases based on the variety of personalities on my holiday list that you might be interested in:

Our nephew has enjoyed a variety of movement toys from an early age: My standard Gearation has been received well by young and old, with him being no exception. The Kidzooie Super Spiral Play Tower with its whistling frog and "frog return" button as my husband called it entertained him for a strangely long period of time for a 1-year old. Recently, the Zingo 1-2-3 game has been a hit, and this holiday, I'm hoping that the spatial reasoning Q-Ba-Maze and mechanically modular system-thinking Constructables will be a hit.

Our niece is a bright girl, especially strong in verbal skills. But her mother and I have also encouraged her visual-spatial abilities as well as her math skills; I buy the games and toys and her mother does them with her. In the past, she has received Zoob: the game and Dino Math Tracks which were very well received. Her mother would prompt her when she struggled with some math challenges: "Remember how you did it with the dinosaurs?". In fourth grade she had fun putting together her Spy Science Intruder Alarm. She asked me to do this with her, and once she understood how to read the instructions (visual literacy in action), she did a great job and got a working model relatively quickly. For the holidays this year, she will be getting Hyperswipe which I hope will keep up her spatial thinking skills.

STEM AS A CREATIVE TOOL (7th-11th grade)
We are hoping that the Little Bits will work with step-nephews, one who plans to go into engineering and had always enjoyed playing with LEGO and the other who has an artistic interest in making things. I debated between this and World of Goo which is a fun game of dynamic structures. I decided on this because, selfishly, I have been wanting to see these things in action for two reasons: 1) They seem to be one of the few electronics items which don't seem to assume prior experience with electronics (I like to call this "easy entry") and 2) They capture the essence of engineering. Engineering may be learned with kits, but the ability to transfer that knowledge to the materials lying around is real engineering.

Of course, I'm also getting items that Engineer's Playground made, too: t-shirts for nephew and son, Calendar for my husband (complete with birthdays of engineers), and a slinky woman engineering tank for me, but I'm most excited about the ability to see STEM skills continue through play in our next generation.