Holiday gift ideas for RoboGeeks (2015)

10 December 2015

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Need some gift ideas for that special robot geek in your life?  We polled the Robohub team for their favorite ideas, from stocking stuffers to once-in-a-lifetime gifts. There’s something on this list for every budget! Don’t see what you’re looking for? See our gift list from last year, browse from our recommendations of 20 great books to hook kids and teens on robotics, or check out Ugly robot christmas sweaters and other bling for your robot wardrobe – Happy shopping!



Toys and Games



Not for kids under 3 | $149.95 and up, available on Amazon

Who didn’t grow up wanting their very own R2D2 or C3PO? With the release of the latest episode of Star Wars, Robohub is shamelessly promoting BB-8 as the droid that will hook the next generation of kids on robotics. Ok, we might get one for ourselves too.

Recommended by Michael Savoie.


PS: If the $149.99 price tag is too much, or if you’re just looking for a stocking stuffer, check out the $10.99 BB-8 bobble-head figure by Funko, or this super awesome $18.99 BB-8 LEGO Minifigure.



Meccano MeccaNoid G15 and G15 KS — Meccano
Ages 8-13 | $140.99 – $249.99 and up, available on Amazon

Like Star Wars and LEGO, many of us grew up on Meccano, and it’s a great way to get school aged kids building on their own. 

The MeccaNoid comes in a 2-foot version and a 4-foot version (!), both of which come with voice recognition and can be programmed via learned intelligent movement (you move its arms, and it remembers and repeats the movement) or through motion capture (where it mimics your movements using a smartphone camera mounted to its chest). 

This is not your grandpa’s Mecanno set!

Recommended by Michael Szollosy, whose kids are desperate to get one.



Ages 8 and up | $119.99 and up, available on Amazon

If your RoboGeek is into racing, Anki’s Overdrive kit might be a good bet. It comes with 2 cars, 10 pieces of track, 2 risers and a charging station. Keep in mind you need a compatible iOS or Android device to play this game. As compared to the first generation Anki Drive, which only let you race people who were on the same device as you, Overdrive lets you race with people on other devices (ie. both Android and iOS users can play at the same time). Overdrive also introduces magnetic modular mats that let you easily reconfigure the track layout, which should help keep the game feeling fresh for longer, especially if you get the Expansion Track Corner Kit or one of the Expansion cars, each of which comes with its own unique mix of speed, defense and firepower.



My Very Real Baby Doll — Little Mommy
Ages 3 – 7 | $189.99 and up, available on Amazon

This is a fair bit of coin to spend on a small child, but the makers of this interactive doll seem to have hit all the right buttons when it comes to early childhood role play. You can make the ‘boo-boo’ on her knee go away by putting a bandaid on it, and when you tickle her feet she tells you she’s going to pee (reallly!). The doll comes with a 150-word vocabulary and several accessories, including the aforementioned band-aid, a bear, a bowl and a spoon.



Boards, kits and learning



Ages 8 – 15 | $20.99 and up, available on Amazon

Great for kids who are ready to learn about circuitry but who aren’t ready for a soldering iron, the Snap Circuit kits are module-based and let kids easily connect components. The Motion set comes with 50 parts that are geared towards projects that move, including gears, pulleys, motion sensors and fans. The Extreme Electronics Kit comes with 82 components, including a solar cell, resistors, switches, and an FM radio module. All the Snap Circuit sets are compatible, so you can mix and match, and they come with lots of great projects to follow along with. There are also smaller kits, including a Junior version for just $20.99. Winner of the National Parenting Seal of Approval and the Creative Child Toy of the Year awards.



Rasberry Pi Zero — Raspberry Pi
$5 and up, limited availability!

About 20,000 $5 Zeros — the smallest of Raspberry Pi’s offerings to date — were sold within minutes after being launched earlier this fall, so we are calling the Zero this season’s must-have item. The trouble is, where to find it? If you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, there are a few Zeros listed on Ebay, but somehow that seems, well, just plain wrong for an item that was purpose built to be ultra affordable. If you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago, Belway/Rockville, Brooklyn/Gowanus or Westchester Country (all USA), then you might be lucky enough to get your hands on one. We found a limited number of Zeros were available at these Micro Center store locations, but according to the website, they have to be pre-ordered and picked up in person after December 18th, and there is a limit of 1 per household. Or you could just wait until the next batch is ready.

Recommended by Yannis Erripis and Ron Vanderkley.



$46.95 and up, available on the Arduino store

If you can’t locate Raspberri Pi’s Zero in time for the holidays, you can always try the Genuino Zero by Arduino — but aside from the name, these two don’t have much in common (not least of which is the price tag). The Genuino is a newly launched Arduino brand (in partnership with US based manufacturer Adafruit) that was launched after Arduino lost a trademark dispute to use the Arduino brand globally. You can read more about the drama here.

Recommended by Ron Vanderkley.



$232.95, available on Element 14

This kit contains a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, Mathworks MatLab & Simulink Student Version, 8GB MicroSD Card, MicroSD card to SD Card Adapter, and a Universal Power Supply. The suite is makes it easy to model simulate and analyze your projects.

Recommended by Ron Vanderkley: “Nice learning kit!”



Making Things Talk
$22.99 and up, available on Amazon and the Arduino Store

Great for novice (but interested) makers, this book has 33 projects that will get your gadgets talking to each other, including changing your home thermostat with your smartphone, or setting up a weather monitoring project.

Recommended by Ron Vanderkley.



Open Softwear 2nd Edition — by By T. Olsson, D. Gaetano, J. Odhner, and S. Wiklund
$22.99 and up, available on Amazon and the Arduino Store

According to the publishers, “An illustrated book aimed at students and professionals trying to enter the field of physical computing from the softwear perspective.”

Recommended by Ron Vanderkley.



Tools of the trade



$ 499.99 and up, available on Amazon

Who wouldn’t want their very own mini metal lathe for machining small robot parts? If you don’t have space in your workshop for a full sized lathe, this could do the trick. If you can’t decide which one to buy, check out this handy comparison chart from the Little Machine Shop.

Suggested by Ron Vanderkley, who wants one of these for machining his own parts.



$132.99 and up, available on Amazon

Great for general purpose electronic testing. Fluke is a premium seller of professional quality digital multimeters, and this one comes with a 3-year warranty.



$169.99 and up, available on Amazon

Mitutoyo receives top reviews by machinists in the digital caliper category. You’ll find less expensive ones out there, but as with most tools, you often get what you pay for.



Air Duster — MaxellDust Off or Metro Vacuum
$10.99 and up (aerosol) $56.99 (electric duster) , available on Amazon

We all know that dust and equipment don’t mix well together, but it’s amazing how often people forget to keep their parts clean. An inexpensive aerosol duster from Maxell or Dust Off can help, or if you want something safer and more environmentally friendly than aerosol, you can try Metro Vacuum’s Electric Duster. This is not a vacuum, but an air blower than comes with several tools, including a pin-pointer, a concentrator nozzle a flare nozzle and a micro-cleaning toolkit. 120 volts.



Holiday reading




$14.99, available on Create Space

Get Nate in paperback!

“”Recycled is an anthology of the webcomic “Nate the Robot”. These comics were posted from 2009 to 2015. Many of these have been remastered and cleaned up for print. Additionally, this book includes 15 completely new comics, only available in print!”

Recommended by Jim Haas.



The Cyberiad — Stanislaw Lem
The Cyberiad
$7.99 (Kindle) to $36.75, available on Amazon

“Lem has created a curious world in which robots and rockets rub shoulders with kings, dragons, witches and pirates.” Lem is a Polish writer who is one of the most widely translated sci-fi writers and best known sci-fi writers working outside of the English language.

Recommended by Adriana Hamacher.



Pentagon Brain DARPA
$11.99 (Kindle) – $17.99 (paperback), available on Amazon

“In the first-ever history about the organization, New York Times bestselling author Annie Jacobsen draws on inside sources, exclusive interviews, private documents, and declassified memos to paint a picture of DARPA, or “the Pentagon’s brain,” from its Cold War inception in 1958 to the present … Jacobsen strikes a balance between lauding the technology leaps driven by DARPA and pointing out that the ultimate goal is to create wartime tools to guarantee U.S. dominance.”

Recommended by Yours Truly. I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my wish list this year.



Machines of Loving Grace — John Markoff
Machines_of_Loving Grace
$7.99 (Kindle) – $13.99 (paperback), available on Amazon

“As robots are increasingly integrated into modern society—on the battlefield and the road, in business, education, and health—Pulitzer-Prize-winningNew York Times science writer John Markoff searches for an answer to one of the most important questions of our age: will these machines help us, or will they replace us?”

Recommended by Yours Truly. I spoke to John earlier this fall, so watch for that interview coming soon on Robohub!




$18.99 and up, available on Amazon

“If data-ism is today’s rising philosophy, this book will be its bible. The quest for universal learning is one of the most significant, fascinating, and revolutionary intellectual developments of all time. A groundbreaking book, The Master Algorithm is the essential guide for anyone and everyone wanting to understand not just how the revolution will happen, but how to be at its forefront.”

Recommended by Ricardo Téllez.



Superintelligence — Nick Bostrom
$7.99 (Kindle) – $13.99 (paperback), available on Amazon

“This profoundly ambitious and original book breaks down a vast track of difficult intellectual terrain. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom’s work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.”

Recommended by Ricardo Téllez.



SuperBetter — Jane McGonigal
$14.99 (Kindle) – $21.99 (paperback), available on Amazon

“In 2009, internationally renowned game designer Jane McGonigal suffered a severe concussion. Unable to think clearly or work or even get out of bed, she became anxious and depressed, even suicidal. But rather than let herself sink further, she decided to get better by doing what she does best: she turned her recovery process into a resilience-building game. What started as a simple motivational exercise quickly became a set of rules for “post-traumatic growth” that she shared on her blog. These rules led to a digital game and a major research study with the National Institutes of Health.”

Recommended by Ricardo Téllez.



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