December 1, 2013

Motherlode: 10 awesome geek gifts for girls

Don’t just ‘think pink’ when shopping for them.

By KJ Dell'Antonia

(Continued from page 1)

Kodu: Got an XBox, or is one in your holiday giving plans? We don’t, but I’ve heard (and read) great things about Kodu, a visual programming language that allows kids to create their own video games on the XBox or a PC. If you’ve got one, add the book “Kodu for Kids: The Official Guide to Creating Your Own Video Games” to your list. It’s an inexpensive way (about $5 on the Xbox Indie Games channel) to transform that Xbox into an entirely different tool.

Bigshot Camera Kit: No doubt your daughter knows how to use a digital camera. But does she know how it works? Could she MacGyver one up with nothing but some sand and some software? Probably not, but she could build one with the Bigshot kit, and learn how the image sensor measures the light to convert it to a digital image.

Arduino Robot: Arduino is an open-source physical computing platform that allows users to write software that controls a physical board. The Arduino robot has two fully programmable Arduino boards, one for its motors, one for sensors and operations, that can communicate via USB with a computer. The tech-inclined family could blow a holiday budget (and the holiday vacation) on getting started with Arduino, then move up to the robot; kids who are already familiar with Arduino would be thrilled with this new way to use it. Remember how everything you did with a computer growing up required reboots and re-jiggering and losing your work and trying again? That’s the gift of Arduino (and its kin, Raspberry Pi) – the chance to figure it out.

MaKey MaKey: Ready for something a little more complicated than SnapCircuits, but not quite Arduino robot material? The MaKey MaKey kit uses alligator clips to make anything into a computer key. Why would you want to recreate a keyboard out of alphabet soup letters, or make a banana piano? Because you can – exactly the message we want our daughters and our sons to hear.

Contact KJ Dell-Antonia at:

kj.dellantonia@nytimes.com

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