Inspiring children and teens through play the wonder of creating, problem-solving, communicating and engineering solutions.  

At Purdue University, we never stop in our persistent pursuit of the next giant leap. Through world-changing research and education in a culture of inclusion and hard work, we are developing practical solutions to the toughest challenges, building a better world, together.

For us, we lead the way in integrating engineering with science, math, and language arts in pre-college classrooms. We do this in a way that engages learners and promotes participation of students from groups underrepresented in engineering. The annual engineering gift guide is one example of our outreach that has earned a global audience with over a million clicks in the past seven years. There may never be a way of knowing the number of children across the world who have benefited from our work and the incredible products inspiring them, but we will keep going because they keep us going. Again and again and again.

In our newest guide, the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering's 2022 Engineering Gift Guide is once again filled with toys, games and books to engage children and teens in engineering thinking and design. Items included in the guide go through an extensive review process led by a student team. Faculty in the School of Engineering Education and the INSPIRE student research team look for items that promote engineering practices ranging from coding and spatial reasoning to problem solving and critical thinking. Selected gifts are included below in the mini gift guides grouped by interests and age groups.

New This Year

Honorable Mention 2022

We had many great submissions this year that missed the cutoff because they didn't have a strong enough "engineering" component. We still want to share why we like them and recommend as a great STEM gift. 

All Gifts from All Guides

Our team is working to archive collections from our gift guides starting back with our first guide from 2015 to present. Check back as we update our website with those mini-guides! In the meantime, we have prepared a trial run with our 2021 and 2022 guides in one collection.  

Our Top 10 Overall Engineering Gift Reviews

Iggy Peck's Big Project Book for Amazing Architects
Iggy Peck's Big Project Book for Amazing Architects is a book written by Andrea Beaty that introduces and reinforces engineering processes of design. 

"I really enjoyed reading this book! I thought it did a great job of cementing engineering processes in the minds of children, teaching them in a way that did not feel like learning. The book itself was fun, it was a breeze to read, and I really enjoyed the drawings as well. It made engineering approachable! Overall I really enjoyed this book."

Snap Circuits MyHome Plus
Snap Circuits MyHome Plus is a toy that teaches the basics of circuits and wiring for children ages 8 and up.
"I thoroughly enjoyed playing with this toy. There are so many projects to complete and plenty of material to cover. The instructions come with in-depth explanations of the electrical processes behind circuits, as well as explanations of how the included components work. There is a lot of room for learning, but at the same time the toy is still fun to play with and sparks curiosity. It is clear this is a high-quality product and the instructions help guide someone new to the world of physics through the basic concepts. It also directly demonstrates how these concepts are applied to the real world through analogies related to the home, making it easy to understand their importance."

Smartivity Hydraulic Plane Launcher

Smartivity Hydraulic Plane Launcher is a toy centered on engineering design and an introduction to hydraulics and aerodynamics for children ages 6 and up. 

"This gift teaches users about aerodynamics and walks you through the process of designing a paper plane that can fly the farthest or achieve another goal. The booklet does a great job of showing users how to use observable data to iterate on a design by asking you to observe what happened when you made certain changes. Additionally, it explored the concept of aerodynamics using terms that children could understand. Overall, it introduced many engineering concepts that could inspire or help children learn about engineering and design."

Sensory Leaves Math Activity Set
Sensory Leaves Math Activity Set is for children ages 3 and up to learn counting, sorting and patterning while playing.

"This gift would be great for young children as it begins to introduce beginner engineering thinking and design (EDT) concepts at a young age. The earlier children begin to be exposed to EDT concepts, the more likely they are to have better EDT skills in the future, so I think that this would be a great jumping off point for many kids."

STEM Explorers Brainometry
STEM Explorers Brainometry is a puzzle game for children ages 5 to 10. 

"This gift is exceptional because it promotes many of the skills needed in engineering while still being fun. Users must think creatively to solve the given challenges while meeting the given constraints and criteria, and must constantly iterate on their designs and analyze their choices. There are also a wide variety of activities to work with, keeping users engaged and excited. Some of the challenges involved designing flowers or clowns, others had users creating the longest wall without having blocks of the same pattern touching. Overall, playing with it was a great beginning exercise in problem-solving and iterative design." 

Switcheroo Coding Crew
Switcheroo Coding Crew TM is an interactive coding toy for children ages 4 to 7.

"This gift is very engaging and exciting, especially for young children. There is a large catalog of problems to solve, but there is also the opportunity for users to define their own problems. This gift is an excellent introduction to coding for young people, and I would absolutely recommend it for anyone looking for a very simple introduction to coding."

Zendo is a logic game for children ages 12 and up. 

"I really enjoyed this game. It was mentally challenging and provided a great gradient from which you could get better at it. I feel like it could be a bit frustrating for some children, but with practice, it would become easier. I think that this game is a great example of indirectly and non-invasively developing EDT skills. Sometimes when interacting with engineering or STEM toys, the fact that it is supposed to develop EDT skills can be overbearing and make STEM skills feel disconnected from reality. In this game, however, the skills are implicit and naturally follow gameplay."

Discover is a cardboard construction kit aimed at using recycled cardboard from home for children ages 5 and up.

"There is a huge potential to create with this gift. The kit comes with child-safe tools and the website has instructions for some designs to make as well as how to use the pieces and tools included in the kit. I think creativity really determines how enjoyable this kit is. I would also recommend using a real boxcutter for adults and older children, as the provided cutter (although safe) cuts rough edges and makes lots of cardboard dust."

Kids First Intro to Gears
Kids First Intro to Gears is a toy that introduces mechanical gears for children ages 3 and up. 

"Gears are an important and fascinating tool used in most if not all machines, so getting a basic understanding of how to use them properly is very important. It teaches higher concepts of gears as well such as speed, torque, and axis of rotation. For me, I was always fascinated with gears when I was little, so getting the change to use and arrange them in any way I could imagine would have made me so happy. This also explains why gear positions are used and what affects they have. Some of the experiments they walk you through I remember learning in high school, so introducing them at such a young age would help tremendously in classes I have and are currently taking."

Mega Cyborg Hand

Mega Cyborg Hand is a toy that promotes children ages 7 and up to explore hydraulics, pneumatics, and robotics. 

"This toy was much easier to put together than most other kits I have reviewed, and the product worked just as intended. Not to mention how cool the glove is once assembled. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of interacting with this gift, and I would recommend it to any child who wants to learn more about STEM topics or who likes to build."

Research Base for Engineering Gift Guide

Moore, T.J., Glancy, A.W., Tank, K.M., Kersten, J.A., Smith, K.A., & Stohlmann, M.S.  (2014). A framework for quality K-12 engineering education: Research and development. Journal of Precollege Engineering Education Research, 4(1), 1-13. 

Dasgupta, A., Rynearson, A., Purzer, S., Ehsan, H., & Cardella, M. (2017). Computational Thinking in K-2 Classrooms: Evidence from Student Artifacts (Fundamental). 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings.

Gift Submission Process

To learn about our gift submission process.


Contact our team at inspire@purdue.edu for questions or concerns.

Mailing Address

Purdue University, Wang Hall, Suite 3500
ATTN: Tamara Moore
516 Northwestern Avenue, Room 3506
West Lafayette, IN 47906

Financial Support for Gift Guide

General Motors Foundation