STEM Jr. Wonder Lab | Little Tikes
With 20 different experiments, such as using dish soap, baking powder and vinegar to make a volcano, or checking objects' conductivity with leads, this is an all-in-one innovation lab for your budding scientists. It's for ages 3 to 9 and has a removable tray for quick clean-ups. At least most of their messes will be localized now.
Botley the Coding Robot | Learning Resources
Botley, recommended for ages 5+, teaches them the basics of coding via a simple remote (included). Type on the directional pad forward, forward, right, right, right, left, forward forward and the wheeled robot, which works on carpet, will make a round trip to its starting point. I taught my four-year-old daughter the basics and she can learn more complex commands as she gets older. Botley also has a LINE mode to follow lines drawn on paper or the floor with marker, like an AGV would with magnetic tape. The pricier version comes with obstacles and extra accessories, though you build your own course made of LEGO blocks.
RC Robot Arm | Sharper Image
The next step up from a remote-control car, this powerful mobile robot arm moves swiftly on two rubber tank treads, each with their own up/down control. The arm itself has four motions: the upper and lower arm, one for wrist rotation, and another to open and close the clamp. It takes a little practice, but showing your kids all the things a robot can do, and having them come up with new applications, is well worth the price. One note: the arm does move slowly and it's sometimes hard to tell the robot's front and back. Stickers would solve this.
Edison Educational Robot Kit | HamiltonBuhl
Compatible with LEGO blocks, Edison synchs up with smart device to allow kids to code using a drag-and-drop method. As children get older, they can start learning Python. Edison can avoid obstacles, detect lines underneath it, sense lights and respond to sound commands.
STEAM Robo-Arm Kit | HamiltonBuhl
Children learn the ins and outs of building and coding their own robot arm that runs with a Arduino Uno microcontroller board and four potentiometers. Up to 100 movements can be memorized and carried out. All it takes is a screwdriver to assemble. Ages 13+.
Mindstorm EV3 | LEGO
Mindstorm will truly test whether a tween and teen's passing fancy for robotics is the beginning or end of their robotics career. The intense DIY project has 601 pieces including servo motors and IR sensors that they have to put together themselves, while you provide some level of oversight. Then they can code the finished 16-in.-tall robot, which looks like a punk version of Johnny 5, to move around, pick up objects, or shoot projectiles.
Smart Coach Radar (Model SR1100) | Pocket Radar
Data analytics and the IIoT have taken over manufacturing, providing leaders the insights they need to make better business decisions. It's a fairly recent development for this industry, though one that seems like ancient history to baseball fanatics obsessed with sabermetrics. With the introduction of the Smart Coach radar, the modern world of Industry 4.0 is colliding with baseball, which is great news if you envision your kid playing in the Big leagues. Call it the Internet of Swings. The radar sensor measures speeds from 25 to 130 mph with a +/- 1 mph accuracy, and provides metrics on ball exit velocity and serve speed. The data is stored in the cloud and can be accessed via an iPhone app (Android coming soon) to provide feedback and suggestions to improve the player's mechanics. It might not turn your kid into the next Mike Trout, but it could give them a better appreciation for data analytics, leading to a career in manufacturing.
da Vinci miniMaker | XYZ Printing
Additive manufacturing has become a vital part of the overall industry's strategy for production, and this starter tool will give your kid the basics, so even if they don’t directly work with them in the future, they understand the basics. This model has a nearly 6 x 6 x 6 in. build volume and accepts STL, 3W and 3MF file formats. Our fearless leader, Travis Hessman, is getting one for his 7-year-old because "when it inevitably jams or breaks or malfunctions, the kid and I can take it apart, problem-solve, and rebuild without too much financial risk from screwing it up."
A8 Desktop Printer | Anet
Back in the day (or more than five years ago), if you wanted a consumer 3D printer, you'd probably have to assemble it yourself, and was a great way to understand how all the parts work together. With the relatively inexpensive A8, you get the benefit of learning one of the premier technologies of our time and a serviceable extrusion printer with a 220 x 220 x 240 mm build volume that uses PLA, ABS, and more.
3D Magic Pen | HamiltonBuhl
If you find a full-fledged 3D printer is too expensive (and extreme) for the tweens-and-under set, this additive design tool the perfect gift to start building up your kid's creative and engineering talents. It comes with three color ABS filaments and will strengthen your child's art, design and engineering skills, while producing cool little knick-knacks you can show off on your office desk.
Star Wars Jedi Challenge | Lenovo
Have a Star Wars-obsessed Padawan at home? Give them this Jedi simulator and they will be obsessed with augmented reality as well. Maybe they'll become a digital twin engineer, which Deloitte mentions as future job. We named this as our Tech Gift of the Year for 2017, so excuse our recycling, but Star Wars shouldn’t mind as that's kind of the franchise's thing. It also earns a spot again because the price was cut in half and Lenovo added new content so you can play as Han Solo's sniveling little Sith son, Kylo Ren. Maybe next update they will allow you to play as a proper lightsaber-wielding hero or villain. (Because that dude is the worst.)
Gear 360 Camera | Samsung
The digital transformation is upon us, with more and more people, places and data being connected via virtual reality. In the industrial sector, companies are just starting to understand the benefits virtual reality. You can show collaborators and customer what a product or work cell looks like in scale without having to transport anyone or anything. That means creating 360-deg content will be a desirable skill in the new age. This starter camera allows anyone to start that journey by capturing the world around them in 4K. It can be live streamed or edited, then viewed later on a smartphone or VR headset.