Think smart this holiday season: Give someone you love a present for the playroom or office desk that generates curiosity as well as smiles. These items are sure to do the trick. John Bordsen
Hexbug Nano V2 Hurricane set
Ideal for: Kids who love to build. Hexbug Nano’s are small robots shaped like computer chips that use physics to explore their environment – scampering through, up and down plastic tubes. It’s kind of a high-tech ant farm, plus a gerbil maze. In the multistory Hurricane set, you can customize the layout so Hexbugs takes a freefall into the black funnel.
About $50 at Discovery Place’s Shop Science store, Target and www.hexbug.com.
Ideal for: Future engineers. The “pegs” are translucent plastic pieces; each contains a circuit board, resistor and LED. Connect them to form objects, including the power-source piece that makes the creation glow. The pieces come in 10 basic shapes, allowing you to build anything from space aliens to helicopters. Laser Pegs was named one of the “Best Toys of 2013” by Good Housekeeping.
Kits start at about $14 (20 pieces) at Discovery Place’s Shop Science store, also at www.laserpegs.com.
Ideal for: Adults who like genetically-personalized art that also looks cool. Order the testing kit online, do the cheek-swab and mail it back. Your finished art – a laminated, stretched canvas bearing a graphic representation of your DNA – is mailed to you and ready for mounting. It should arrive in about five weeks. For the holidays, dna11.com will mail you the swab kit (wrap that as the gift’s placeholder) five days after you call. Various sizes are available; the most popular is 18-by-24 inches.
An 18-by-24-inch canvas runs at $399. Order from www.dna11.com.
Ideal for: Executives and students interested in geography or astronomy. What makes the Earth spin? In this case, it’s ambient light and a magnetic field force that sets it slowly spinning on its three-fingered acrylic stand. Solar cells inside keep the planet moving; a magnet keeps them moving. There are a variety of models, including ones of Jupiter and Mars, and they range in diameter from 4.5 inches to 8.5 inches.
Olinguito plush toy
Ideal for: Any North Carolinian who loves cute critters. This year, Roland Kays of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences led the group responsible for identifying the olinguito as a new species of mammals. The actual 2-pound member of the raccoon family lives in the cloud forest trees of South America’s Andes Mountains. This cuddle toy, however, will live on your pillow at home.
This toy runs $19.95 in Raleigh at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Museum Store.
Ideal for: Those with a yen for knickknacks you can play with. We’re talking linear elasticity – Hertz’s adjustment to Hooke’s law, as well as Newton’s law of motion. Metal balls are individually suspended from a frame, lined up and touching. Move one (or more) and see the different pendulum effects on the ball or balls at rest.
About $10 (smaller version) or $20 at Discovery Place’s Shop Science store.
About $14.95 at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Museum Store; also at www.scientificsonline.com.
OSM: Spatial Manipulation Toy
Ideal for: Twiddlers. This is surprisingly simple: Six discs are linked in such a way that you can manipulate them in your paw like a kind of 3-D kaleidoscope, turning the assemblage inside and out, over and over again. The discs are detatchable, so you can literally try your hand at other configurations.
Price runs $9.99-$17.99 at www.thinkgeek.com.