The Nerdy Dozen

It’s THAT time again. Yes, deck the halls with over-the-top holiday spirit everywhere you turn and spread quirky RI cheer. As the charmingly overly extroverted introverts we are, it is our civic duty to help inspire others to out their weird.

The following are a dozen ideas to inspire the nerds on your list – or just to placate your own inner nerd-needs. Some for the techie, some for the recycler, some for the maker and some for all the Whos in Whoville.

Retro Nintendo
It’s baaaack – the number one game console of the ‘80s is an engaging history lesson for the young gamer and a trip down memory lane for the older nerd. Around $40 – Google it!

A Light Saber
There are several sites dedicated to sabers, believe it or not, including, which lets you configure your own, buy the parts, then put it together when it arrives. That process is a bit pricey, but prefab models run around $75. If you think the force will be with the latest movie, this gift might be a cut above average.

Chromecast Audio
You already listen to things on your phone. Maybe not those relatives who call. But music or audiobooks or YouTuberie – your giftee probably does, too. So help them do it in higher fidelity with this external speaker dongle. Roughly $35.

Green Science Windmill Kit
Blow the kids away with this kit that lets them build their own wind-powered green energy LED (because you gotta start somewhere). Available at POW Science in Wakefield (see sidebar). About $14, wind not included.

Gather Glass
This glass blowing studio will let you make your own glass objects – ornaments for the tree are especially hot, and the intense heat can actually be comforting in the winter. There’s an art and science to glass blowing, and in a glass-blowing session you’ll learn about both – so this can work either as something uniquely made, or as a gift certificate for a technical experience that might result in them making something for you! Gather Glass, 521 Atwells Ave, Pvd. $45 per person.

This is like a nanny cam, only for your pet. With remote access so you can check on your favorite canine or feline and even sound alarms remotely and play with them using a remote-controlled laser pointer. Yes, even a cat might pay attention to a remote-controlled laser pointer. The perfect way to find out about your fur baby’s secret life. Around $120 – search Petcube Play on Amazon.

Laser Sharks
f2eb_shark_w_frickin_laser_pointerA laser pointer with a handle shaped like a shark, these are the perfect thing for anyone who might end up making a presentation about Sharknado 7, the return of the Jedi. Google “shark with laser pointer” to find out where these are still swimming about. About $13.

3D Doodling
Using the same principles as a 3Dprinter, only much more hands-on, this device lets you do a little 3D construction. About $80, Google 3Doodler. Try to say, “Google 3Doodler” three times fast for extra points.

Easy Button
Several years ago, I hacked (literally, a hacksaw was involved) the annoying-as-it-gets Staples “That was easy” button and recorded my own message as a gift to a friend. While I’m certain that quickly became just as annoying and unused, it was fun for a few days (it said, “Fire torpedos” and was meant to be dashboard-mounted). You can still do that DIY style,, or get one that’s designed to take custom messages (“custom easy button” on Amazon).

Easier Pin-on Buttons
We have lapel buttons made from old copies of Motif. Some come out pretty cool looking (if you like our logo). You can get something of sentimental value – but not actual value, because you’re basically going to destroy it – and cut it into a circular shape at AS220 or the Artists’ Exchange, then pop it in a button maker. Both places have crafticians who will show you how to do it safely and equipment you can rent. AS220 Fab Lab, 131 Washington St, Pvd. Open 10am – 10pm Wed and Thur, and 10am – 6pm Fri through Sun.

Origami chair
Search for Bookniture on Amazon and you’ll find a round stool made of paper, which folds up to the size of a round book from a Harry Potter movie – but unfolded will hold a half ton of weight (they say – we didn’t test it). There’s not much making involved here, but folding it up looks like fun, and the principle could apply to other make-your-own items (see below). Roughly $80.

Mull Maker Mill Makeables
Head to one of the Ocean State Maker Mill open evenings in Pawtucket with an idea, a vector drawing (in pretty much any vector-based software known to mankind) and a positive attitude. This friendly group of nerds will coach you through using their laser cutters and 3D printers – membership is $50 a month. “You get access to the laser cutters, and all of these tools – some of the 3D printers cost thousands of dollars – this is a pretty great way to get access to them,” says Bill Maya, one of the Maker Mill members. At last Friday’s holiday open house, you could customize small wooden laser-cut wreaths or pick up a number of custom 3D printed, premade knick-knacks with Rhode Island-shaped holes in them, latex decals, etc. For a full story on the Mill, see The Ocean State Makers Mill is open Wednesday and Friday evenings from 6 til about 10pm. Come in the rear entrance to the giant mill building (the door is kept open, with warm light pouring out into the December nights) at 80 Fountain St in Pawtucket. Newcomers welcome.

AS220’s Fab Academy has similar options and possibilities – details at

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