Adafruit Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Books and Games for Young Engineers

A list of some great games and books to inspire the young engineer in your life! All of these items are under $20, and make great stocking stuffers. Where appropriate, suggested age ranges are provided.

Mechanical Sourcebooks:

From left to right:

The first book, the Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook, is a like an encyclopedia of mechanics, with explanations of how various linkages and simple machines work, and what they can be used for. Neil Sclater does a great job breaking down advanced engineering concepts into easy-to-understand language.

The other two books are compendiums of various mechanisms used in all sorts of machinery and hardware. They’re not textbooks, exactly, just collections of mechanical drawings with occasional notes. They’re great for inspiring new designs and ideas. Figuring out how these mechanisms work (and how they can be made) is a lot of fun! Many of the drawings are quite beautiful too!

Age: while all ages can enjoy the images in these books, younger children may need someone older to help them understand the concepts.


Compass Drawings: Construction Designs Using a Compass and a Ruler (Grades 4-6) by Linda Harst

I’ve always been terrible at freehand drawing — still am, in fact. Then one day I discovered my dad’s college technical drawing books. While these were geared towards professional drafting, my favorite parts were the pictures at the beginining that described various geometric construction techniques. Drawing with geometric construction is a good way to improve spatial reasoning, and the results can be quite beautiful.

This book focuses on teaching those techniques, with the goal being to create beautiful mandala-like pictures, suitable for the finest refridgerators.

While explicitly stated to be for grades 4-6, I’d suggest this is an all-ages book, with help and supervision recommended for younger children (watch out for those pointy compass needles!)

The Leviathan Trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld. Illustrated by Keith Thompson.

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series follows the adventures of Deryn Sharpe, a girl who joins the Air Service on the side of Britain at the beginning of World War I. Westerfeld’s alternate-history world is a merging of biopunk, steampunk and dieselpunk influences, along with a few other ‘punks that have yet to be defined, and features appearances by historical personalities such as William Randolph Hearst and Nikola Tesla (the dénoûment of the three-book story takes place at Wardenclyffe). These books are full of strange creations and wonderful illustrations that will fire the imagination of any young engineer or biologist.

The audiobook version, read by actor Alan Cumming, is a treasure all it’s own.

Also available is the Manual of Aeronautics, a larger format companion volume featuring beautiful cutaway illustrations by Thompson, with notes by Westerfeld.

Recommended age: teenagers to adults

LadyAda’s “E is for Electronics” coloring bookavailable in the shop or as a free PDF — is a coloring book adventure with electronic components and their inventors. Makers of all ages can learn, color, and share common parts and historical figures throughout history. Explore the world of electronics with Ladyada as your guide!

All ages.


Cogs, by Lazy8Studios, is one of the most addictive puzzle games you’ll ever play. The puzzles are challenging and it looks really cool too, with a fun steampunk style.

Age: 8 to adult.

Machinarium by Amanita Design. This is such a great game. It’s got very challenging puzzles, but this is balanced out by one of the best hint systems in any game ever. Though it has no dialogue, it does a wonderful job of telling a cute little love story about two robots.

Age: 8 to adult.

SpaceChem by Zachtronics Industries. SpaceChem is a design-type puzzle game where the player must connect various chemical reaction ‘circuits’ to create new types of matter. An added benefit is that you learn about reactions and the periodic table while playing.

Age: 10 to adult


Here are your 2012 shipping deadlines for ordering from Adafruit. Please review our shipping section if you have specific questions on how and where we ship worldwide for this holiday season.

UPS ground (USA orders): Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 14, 2012 – Arrive by 12/24/2012 or sooner.

UPS 3-day (USA orders): Place orders by Wednesday 11am ET – December 19, 2012 – Arrive on 12/24/2012.

UPS 2-day (USA orders): Place orders by Thursday 11am ET – December 20, 2012 – Arrive on 12/24/2012.

UPS overnight (USA orders): Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 21, 2012 – Arrive on 12/24/2012.

UPS International: Place orders by Monday 11am ET – December 17, 2012. Can take up extra time due to worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/24/2012 or sooner.

Please note: We do not offer Saturday service for UPS.
Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, Christmas, no UPS pickup or delivery service.
Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, New Year’s Day, no UPS pickup or delivery service.

United States Postal Service, First Class and Priority (USA orders): Place orders by Friday – December 14, 2012 – Arrive by 12/24/2012 or sooner.

USPS First class mail international (International orders): Place orders by Friday – November 23, 2012. Can take up to 30 days ore more with worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/24/2012 or sooner, but not a trackable service cannot be guaranteed to arrive by 12/24/12.

USPS Express mail international(International orders): Place orders by Friday – December 14, 2012. Can take up to 15 days or more with worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/24/2012 or sooner.

Gift Certificates are always available at any time.

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