Build your own drone: DIY gifts that are great for creative minds
Smartphones? Ho-hum. Televisions? Meh. PCs? Yawn.
If you’re looking for a gift that you make — or maybe the recipient gets to create after you give her the tools — there are some innovative projects out there, with price tags of $10 to $200. For instance: build your own drone.
After all, while a wireless headphones set might seem like a welcomed gift, there are a million other pairs exactly like it.
For toy lovers
Drones may be a dime a dozen, but not ones you can build before you fly.
That’s the idea behind FlyBlocks ($59). Let kids be the engineer and pilot, by first building a custom drone with the 72 snap-on pieces and pre-programmed circuit board, and then soar the skies with the included remote control. After you’ve epically totaled your drone, re-build in one of four different models, and take flight again.
My experience: While building the affordable drone is fun, flying and crashing it is even better. In fact, I’m lousy with drones, so it was nice to be encouraged to crash it — so long as you don’t lose any pieces.
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For budding inventors
Why not give a gift that keeps on giving?
Without breaking the bank, the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini ($189) is a compact 3D printer that connects wirelessly to your network for Wi-Fi printing throughout your home, office, or classroom – or you can simply press the one button to start the process.
Ideal for beginners, this easy-to-use 3D printer offers sharp precision (with a maximum layer resolution of 400 microns) to create a three-dimensional object up to six inches cubed.
Included in the price is 300 grams of non-toxic PLA filament, cleaning and maintenance tools, a STEAM 3D Design Tutorial eGift Card ($49), and a free downloadable version of XYZmaker 3D modeling design software to get going.
On a related note, kids who enjoy STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) may also get a kick out of the littleBits Gizmos and Gadgets Kit 2nd Edition ($139), which lets loved ones learn how create app-enabled games and fun inventions.
For sentimental types
To tug on some heartstrings, use precious photos to create a one-of-a-kind gift.
With minted.com, you’ll first choose what you’d like delivered to the gift recipient, and then you’ll upload your photos. For example, minted’s hanging bar calendars use one main photo – which could be a couple’s wedding day photo, a child, or a pet, for example – for the reversible calendar (six months on each side). Costs are $22 for one, or $18 each for two, or more.
There’s also minted’s Heart Snapshot Mix photo art print (from $42), which lets you personalize with 30 of your favorite photos. You can also choose from captions, hues, filters and foil accents to make it truly one of a kind.
If you prefer not to use your own photos, you can choose unique designs from independent artists to order artwork, stationary, apparel, throw pillows, placemats, and much more.
My experience: These kinds of services, which let you upload personal photos to create keepsakes, have been around for a while. But I really liked minted.com’s simple user interface, unique items (like the heart-shaped print), and independent artwork to choose from.
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For family tree builders
Give the gift of knowledge, with a DNA kit that can unlock your family history.
With AncestryDNA ($99), provide some saliva in the tube, secure the lid, and send it off in the prepaid box to Ancestry’s lab for analysis. This DNA test looks at your entire genome — all 23 pairs of chromosomes — which carry genetic information from both your parents, passed down through the generations. Ancestry then uses genetic science to determine family relationships within their huge database of members.
A few weeks later, you’ll receive an email with detailed information about where your ancestors are from, dating back a few hundred years, including a map that shows you a concentration in specific regions.
On a personal note, I wasn’t surprised to see I was mostly of Eastern European descent (89%), and mostly Polish, but also discovered I’m 2% Irish!
Your DNA will also be matched with likely relatives, to help you flesh out your family tree, connect with others (if desired), and more.
More: Ancestry DNA tests: How accurate, how secure and how private?
For deep sleepers
Customize what you smell with these olfactory alarm
Customize what you smell with these olfactory alarm clocks. (Photo: Sensorwake/handout)
No one likes being jolted out of sleep.
Instead, how about waking up to the smell of a buttery croissant or fresh coffee?
As the name suggests, Sensorwake 2 ($119) is an olfactory alarm clock, which emits a desirable fragrance for a couple of minutes to rouse you out of sleep, via small cartridges inserted on top of the hi-tech clock.
Along with aromatic coffee and croissants, other scents include pine trees, peach, chocolate, and more. The alarm clock holds up to 12 capsules at a time. Extra capsules cost $6.54 apiece, and each has a lifetime of 30 uses.
Sensorwake 2 also emits light to get your feet on the ground, along with one of five soft melodies to choose from, which start playing after three minutes of the scent diffusion.
My experience: I originally saw its predecessor debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) a couple years back, and thought it was gimmicky. But the product actually works well, and includes sound and light, and with new scents available soon.
For smartphone owners
An ideal stocking stuffer, Popsockets (from $10) are a trendy accessory for smartphone owners.
These circular add-ons stick to the back of your phone (or case) and lay flat, but you can pop them out with their accordion design and then hold them between your fingers when, say, taking a selfie, wrapping your headphone cords around them (to keep them neatly in place), or when propping up your smartphone on a desk or table, leaning on the Popsocket, to watch a movie or video chat.
But it’s fun to just pull and push on a Popsocket, too — perfect for fidgety types.
Why are Popsockets in an article about personalized gifts? Because along with choosing from the available artwork (and material) options, popsockets.com lets you also upload you own custom artwork to create a truly unique Popsocket for friends and family.
My experience: I was first introduced to these accessories by my kids, but I have to admit they’re fun to play around with. And the fact that you can customize the Popsocket makes it an even more appealing (and inexpensive) gift.