GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #5: Gadgets and DIY

geekmom-holiday-gift-guide
Next up in this year’s holiday gift guides: Gadgets and DIY! Read about a few of our favorites from 2016. The GeekMom guides will run each week on Tuesday mornings.


Images: OttLite
OttLite LED Desk Lamps
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: OttLite
Price: $60
Purchase: OttLite LED Desk Lamps

OttLite LED desk lamps use a balance of warm and cool light with many brightness levels and three color modes, mixing which bulbs are lit to fit your needs. Perfect for craft and detail work, these also work well as standard desk lamps. With flexible arms and a sturdy base, OttLite is now forever my go-to lamp for task lighting. Read my full review.


The Power Amp 18. Photos: ZAGG
ZAGG Power Amps
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: ZAGG
Price: $22-67
Purchase: ZAGG Power Amps

With choices from 3,000 mAh to a whopping 18,000 mAh, ZAGG has you covered for powering up your portable devices. Their Power Amp series of power banks just works. The Power Amp 3 has enough juice to recharge your phone once, while the Power Amp 18 has three USB ports and enough power to recharge your phone six times. Each Power Amp model also includes an LED flashlight, and the 18 also includes an LED lantern and silicone cable management strap. All come pre-charged and ready to use. Read my full review.


Photo by Marziah Karch – Cameo 2 straight out of the box
CAMEO 3
Suggested By: Marziah
Mfg: Silhouette
Price: $200-250
Purchase: CAMEO 3

This is your present to yourself – or possibly to your whole family, depending on how you look at it. The CAMEO 3 is an easy to use stencil cutter that can cut all sorts of materials, including heat transfers, stencils, vinyl transfers, some fabrics, and paper. It’s a crafting dream. You can swap out the blade for custom markers to first trace a design onto the material you’re going to cut. You can also buy kits to create stencils for T-shirt screen printing and glass etching. Buy this for yourself and then create your own geeky Christmas ornaments and make everyone’s gifts next year. Harry Potter fans should also join the Accio Cameo Facebook group to see geeky projects from fellow fans and even share project files.


Photo by Marziah Karch
Grace Digital CastDock X2
Suggested By: Marziah Karch
Mfg: Grace Digital
Price: $91
Purchase: Grace Digital CastDock X2

If you have a Chromecast Audio (or Santa is stuffing your stocking with one), this speaker makes the perfect portable speaker accessory. Just pop your Chromecast in the specially designed port, and you can “cast” your tunes to the speaker from your Android or iPhone. I have one in my kitchen and use it to listen to music or podcasts while cooking.

The reason this is superior to just using a standard Bluetooth speaker is that the Chromecast keeps your audio connection even when you leave the room or move your phone out of range. (Full disclosure: review sample)


Compact and Comfortable to Wear
Boom Bit
Suggested By: Nivi Engineer
Mfg: Polk
Price: $29.99
Purchase: Boom Bit

Waterproof Wearable Bluetooth Speaker


Image credit: Patricia Vollmer
BloomSky SKY2 and STORM Weather Station
Suggested By: Patricia Vollmer
Mfg: BloomSky
Price: $269.99
Purchase: BloomSky SKY2 and STORM Weather Station

Born of a Kickstarter campaign in June 2014, the BloomSky system consists of a sensor set that measures temperature, dewpoint, ultraviolet radiation, barometric pressure, and whether it’s raining or not. The ocular-looking apparatus also includes a 170-degree fisheye HD camera that will capture images every 5 minutes to stitch into a very elegant daily time-lapse. The 2014 Kickstarter did very well and today, SKY1 and SKY2 customers number well over 100,000 community members in just about 2 years. Check out one of Patricia’s recent daily time-lapse videos here. This is a great gift for your favorite STEM geek in your life!


Image credit: Decibullz.com
Decibullz Custom Molded Wireless Earbuds
Suggested By: Patricia Vollmer
Mfg: Decibullz
Price: $119.00
Purchase: Decibullz Custom Molded Wireless Earbuds

Like custom fitting mouthguards for field sports, the Decibullz headphones feature moldable pieces that you custom fit to your outer ear with hot water. These headphones are perfect for athletes who spend more than an hour at a time working out or otherwise using earbuds. Patricia tried them out on a cross-Pacific flight in October and found them very comfortable.


Image credit: Patricia Vollmer
Drifter Energy Device-Charging Laptop Backpack
Suggested By: Patricia Vollmer
Mfg: STM Bags
Price: $239.95
Purchase: Drifter Energy Device-Charging Laptop Backpack

This backpack is your one-stop shop for on-the-go device charging! Perfect for your favorite student or traveler who can’t live without their devices. The backpack will easily and safely store laptops up to 15″, as well as numerous other tablets, smart phones, and e-readers. Use the integrated Joey device charger to quickly charge up to two devices at once via USB. The bag not only will store your devices, but there are multiple zipper pockets to keep other items, from your favorite notebooks, to wallets, water bottles, sunscreen, and keys. The slim design will is perfect for fitting into crowded buses, subways, and airport trains. Available in graphite grey, navy blue, and a woodland camouflage pattern.


Image: EASTBULL
Useless Box
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: EASTBULL
Price: $17.50
Purchase: Useless Box

The useless box is exactly what it sounds like. Absolutely useless. Flip a switch, and it opens up, only to flip itself off again, and close. What’s the point? There isn’t one. It’s funny, strange, and oddly compelling. I dare you to flip it and not smile. It lends itself well to personification, too. In its own way, it’s the perfect hermit. Say hello, and get shut down. It’s like small talk with coworkers but knowing that it’s never personal. Perfect. Whether it’s a gag gift or not, though, totally depends on the recipient.


Images: Henge Docks
Henge Docks Gravitas² for iPhone/iPad
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Henge Docks
Price: $79.00
Purchase: Henge Docks Gravitas² for iPhone/iPad

The Gravitas² for iPhone/iPad is the perfect gift for your iOS-using geek, especially those who are hard on their devices. This is because the Gravitas² is a whopping 2.4 pounds, making it one of the most stable docks on the market. The base has a 3.5 inch diameter but is designed to be compatible with any iOS device using the Lightning cable port. Unlike most docks, the Gravitas² also features inserts that accommodate cases, which means you don’t have to worry about your geek risking their device’s safety in order to get the utility of the dock. The dock also features a USB port connection, meaning you can sync your iPhone while it charges. And for those of us smarting over the recent loss of the audio jack in the iPhone 7, there’s an audio port in the back, so your phone can connect to a speaker while it charges, too.


Samson Meteor Mic
Samson Meteor Condenser Microphone
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: Samson
Price: $69.99
Purchase: Samson Meteor Condenser Microphone

Samson Meteor mic has the largest condenser diaphragms of any USB mic available at the moment (25mm). It’s a great microphone for desktop recording. Dakster’s favorite feature is the built-in headphone jack and mute button. Unlike other condenser microphones that require an outside power source, the Meteor mic is strong enough to work without one. With the Apple iPad USB adapter, it works great with the iPad, no app required. (Full disclosure: received a review sample.)


Misfit Bolt
Misfit Wearables B00YZ Bolt Wireless Bluetooth LED Smart Light Bulb
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: Misfit
Price: $31.78
Purchase: Misfit Wearables B00YZ Bolt Wireless Bluetooth LED Smart Light Bulb

As app controlled lights go, Bolt is a great starter bulb. The app lets you set it to wake you up with the sunrise and change the mood to 12 different options. Dakster’s favorite mood is the quiet solitude of the forest for when she is reading. The app has evolved to being more user-friendly and is finally at a point that makes it recommendable. (Full disclosure: received a review sample.)


Build a cell phone…from scratch! Image: ThinkGeek
RePhone DIY Cell Phone Kit
Suggested By: Lisa Kay Tate
Mfg: Think Geek
Price: $58.99
Purchase: RePhone DIY Cell Phone Kit

This gadget lover’s DIY comes with (almost) everything needed to make completely personalized cell phone, from kraft paper cases, templates to a 1.54” touchscreen. You just need a 2G Nano SIM to get started. No, this won’t do everything the latest smart phone can, but it sure is cool playing music and calling people on the phone “you made all by yourself!”


Photo by Marziah Karch
MakeCrate
Suggested By: Marziah
Mfg: MakeCrate
Price: 3-12 month subscriptions, starting at $120
Purchase: MakeCrate

GeekDad/GeekMom exclusive! Use code GEEKCRATE to receive 10% off 6 and 12-month subscriptions. MakeCrate offers kids a box-of-the-month kit for making electronics projects using Arduino (no soldering involved). Each kit builds on the last kit with new lessons and step-by-step instructions along with access to a community and tutorials. Kids can start with easy picture-based instructions or try to follow the harder text-based instructions, which will explain why they must complete each step for the electronics project to work. Order by December 7th for holiday delivery.


Cover of book
Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred
Suggested By: Marziah Karch
Mfg: No Starch Press
Price: $10-20
Purchase: Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred

File this under: how did I not know this existed before? Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids is exactly what it sounds like, a book of projects for you to make with your child. Most of the projects are pretty timeless and range in the level of skill and power equipment involved. There’s the delightful sock Cthulhu monster that involves only socks, stuffing, scissors, and needle and thread. There are also soldering projects, carpentry projects, and everything in between.


beadsparkle

Book Cover
Bead Sparkle
Suggested By: Marziah Karch
Mfg: Taunton Press
Price: $16-17
Purchase: Bead Sparkle

Full disclosure: Susan Beal is a friend and fellow resident of Portland, Oregon, but I would recommend her craft books even if I didn’t know her. In this book, she provides clear instructions and descriptions of techniques for making all sorts of jewelry, from necklaces to barrettes and hair combs. Fun for both parents and older kids.

Dakster Sullivan is a network administrator by day and a cosplayer by night. She loves discovering new books to read, tech to play with, and ways to express her herself. She has anxiety and depression and strives to educate others about these invisible illnesses.