Coding continues to trend in Purdue's 2023 Engineering Gift Guide
Purdue University released its 10th consecutive Engineering Gift Guide today, Nov. 21, 2023, showcasing more than two dozen gifts that encourage engineering thinking and design in kids and teens.
The annual guide is produced by the nonprofit INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering, which is a research center within the Purdue School of Engineering Education dedicated to integrating engineering into pre-college classrooms, and promoting participation of students from groups underrepresented in engineering.
Coding has been a big trend in educational toys for several years, and this year didn’t disappoint with two robots, a rover, a microelectronics kit, a book, and a plush doll included in the guide. Along with books on smart manufacturing and inventing as well as electronics-, fabrication-, solar energy-, artificial intelligence-, and observational testing-type toys, the INSPIRE Student Research Team gave high marks to items that encouraged imagination through motion, creative problem solving, and spatial reasoning (i. e. fitting things together, building, analyzing physical systems, measuring, etc.).
“Since the guide began in 2014, we have reviewed hundreds of toys with the potential to help children explore what it means to be an engineer,” said INSPIRE Co-Director Tamara Moore, a Purdue Professor of Engineering Education. “Because the hallmark of engineering is engineering design, we first we look for toys that fit within an engineering design space. In our top five, we expect to see toys, books and games that are designed to address engineering or content that is needed for engineering specifically…not just science- or mathematics-focused.”
Moore encourages gift-givers to look for toys that engage the individual child and build upon something with which the child is already familiar and likes. Many of the guide’s toys include a story book or characters to increase engagement.
The toys cover a wide range, from a variety of building toys and games for kids as young as two years old to electronics kits and books for ages 8 and up. From the collection of items selected this year, the faculty guided INSPIRE Student Research Team chose five favorites:
- KIBO 15 STEAM Robot
- Spintronics Act One
- KAI: The Artificial Intelligence Robot
- Reel Big Catch Game
- How to Explain Coding to a Grown-Up
The entire list of gift guide items can be found online.
“This is my third year on the review team, and I always enjoy seeing the screenless programming toys,” said Review Team Lead Avery “AR” Miller, who is a senior studying Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering with plans to become a design engineer. “Any time that a child can practice logical and computational skills while working hands-on is awesome.”
AR sees gaps in engineering toys for kids under the age of 8 and above age 12. In addition, she wants toys like the ones in the gift guide to be more accessible to everyone as some items aren’t readily found on store shelves. She also commends companies like Thames and Kosmos, Spintronics, and hand2mind for their gender-neutral packaging and marketing.
With a process based on National Science Foundation research, gift guide reviewers look at the items for how well they integrate processes of design; application of SEM knowledge; engineering thinking; concepts of engineers and engineering; engineering tools and processes; issues, solutions, and impacts; teamwork; communications related to engineering; computational thinking; and spatial reasoning.
About the School of Engineering Education
As one of the academic divisions in the Purdue University College of Engineering, the School of Engineering Education (ENE) focuses on transforming engineering education based on scholarship and research, and envisions a more inclusive, socially connected, and scholarly engineering education. The first school of its kind in the nation (established in 2004), Purdue ENE is a national and global leader of this emerging discipline and maintains a strong research portfolio in pre-college, higher education, and engineering workplaces to advance the student experience as well as improve engineering education culture and workforce practices. Through scholarship, systematic research, policy development, and assessment, faculty researchers rethink the boundaries of engineering education as they address big questions in the areas of creativity, diversity, innovation, and social responsibility. At Purdue's West Lafayette campus, the school delivers three distinct yet complementary programs: First-Year Engineering, undergraduate degrees in interdisciplinary engineering studies and multidisciplinary engineering, and a graduate program (Ph.D. and an online M.S.) in engineering education.