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2020 Engineering Gift Guide

The 2020 Engineering Gift Guide from Purdue University is filled with fun toys, games, puzzles, and books to engage children and teens, ages 10 months-to-18 in engineering thinking and design. Items included in the guide go through an extensive review process led by a student team. Researchers look for items that promote engineering practices ranging from coding and spatial reasoning to problem solving and critical thinking.

New for 2020

With the pandemic, a few changes were made for this year's annual gift review process and the guide itself. To ensure the safety of our team and community, we did not conduct external reviews with families in the local area or with the broader Purdue community on campus. All reviews were conducted internally with our INSPIRE team of Purdue faculty and students.

Our returning readers will notice we do not provide one large printable or interactive guide and instead have provided e-collections of gifts by categories linked below. We hope you find it useful to browse and shop from the new "mini gift guides" grouped by interests and age groups!

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Our Top 10 Overall Engineering Gift Reviews

The Language of the UniverseThe Language of the Universe: A Visual Exploration of Mathematics, a book written by Colin Stuart for ages 8-12 - From atoms to beehives to the movement of the planets, everything around us is buzzing with math. Learn about mathematics in an extraordinary new light.

"This book takes the reader on a deep and complex exploration of math and engineering principles. It has a strong connection to the real world and encourages readers to explore the world around them. The beautiful illustrations aid in the understanding of the text and the book to the next level."

Addy-metic and the Toasteriffic!Addy-matic and the Toasterrific!, a book written by Curtis Mark Williams for ages 4-8 and inspired by a real Rube Goldberg project that he and his daughter Addy built in her toy room.

"What a fun, captivating story with focus ingenuity and design! Addy very clearly defines her problem and utilizes items around her house to solve the problem, encouraging children to be creative and resourceful. Our review team is drawn to this story for how it expresses the entire engineering process in a way young children can understand and easily relate to." 

Space CircuitsDesign & Drill Space Circuits, a toy by Educational Insights for ages 5-8 that introduces users to circuits, resistance, and electricity.

"Among our team, Space Circuits is highly regarded for its simplistic, yet inviting nature that draws in younger users more so than other popular circuitry kits. The storyline and simple instructional manual allows children of a young age to explore circuits in an environment suitable for them. The electric screwdriver adds a layer of tactility not often seen in circuitry kits."

Mechanics Challenge StrikeMechanics Challenge Strike, a game by Geomag for ages 7+ with the engaging goal of knocking over opponents' towers by the arms swinging from a gravity elevator (wait for it.....) that runs on marbles!

"We love the connection between science and engineering with a large variety of gameplay, design, and troubleshooting. Reviewers on the team found it was 'easy to learn and hard to master' while it was super fun and rewarding when their marble-run gravity elevator picked up speed!"

Moon MissionMoon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11, a book written by Sigmund Brouwer for ages 10-14 that contains a great mix of science, math and engineering knowledge while recalling the steps leading up to Apollo 11 landing on the moon. *Caution: This book provides a serious look at the dangers of space travel. Not recommended for young readers.

"Moon Mission utilizes second person storytelling to pull the reader into an exploration of the history of space travel. The book goes beyond normal space books in both detail and complexity creating a reader experience like no other!"

Gears Gears Gears!Gears! Gears! Gears! Robot in Motion, a toy by Learning Resources for chidlren ages 5+ to create robots that move their arms and turn their head with the simple turn of a knob!

"The first time you turn the knob on the robot designed by you, you'll know why this was chosen for our Top 10! The motion and force transfer with the designer's inspirations creates robots without specific instructions, yet so amazing how it comes alive by the crank with the designer's hand. Such a fun kit!"

Code RocketCode Rocket by Let's Start Coding for ages 8-12 is a rocket-shaped coding set that uses a computer and downloadable software. 

"Unanimously, our team felt this coding today is an excellent introduction to coding with a large variety of projects. Code Rocket is an excellent coding kit for beginners to learn to code as it contains many learning resources. The sample code, videos, and written explanations provide plenty of learning options. The set has a large number of projects utilizing speakers, LEDs, and buttons that will engage users for a long time and encourage exploration and learning."

GravitraxGravitrax Obstacle Set, a toy by Ravensburger for ages 8+ is a new edition to prior sets in our gift guides from years past. This new set includes fun new obstacles like trampolines, bridges, spirals and a zipline. 

"Once again, Gravitrax has our team reeling over the toy that allows users to create their own designs to test gravity with marbles. Exploration of different designs and troubleshooting them feels endless yet so engaging. We can't get enough of Gravitrax products!"

WordStruct, a 2D and 3D game by for ages 9+ and made of letter tiles to spell out vertical and horizontal word structures. 

"So unique and so fun! WordStruct is a take on the standard 'word-building game' format that combines vocabulary and engineering. There is a lot of strategy involved while leaving little room for interpretation or dispute."

Weights Balance GameJanod Weights Balance Game by Jura Toys for ages 3-6 is a balancing beam with a variety of weighted blocks that are magnetized for ease of use and creative balancing for young children.

"Weights simple introduction of core engineering skills at a young age is a huge deal for us. Such toys are hard to find - and those this good and of high quality. Young children are able to approach topics such as spatial reasoning, balancing, and problem solving in a fun and enticing way. The fundamental engineering skills found in Weights make it an excellent introductory toy for a very young age group."


Top Engineering Gift Reviews by Categories

All 2020 Gift Reviews



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. 

Previous Gift Guides

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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

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