Purdue gift guide promotes STEM education

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Holiday shopping for children can become a dilemma.

“With so many options, I wanted to be able to choose something that had some educational value, something that would last beyond just a single session of play” said Monica Cardella, the director of Purdue’s INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering.

Cardella said the trouble finding toys that teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fueled the idea behind the engineering gift guide.

“For kids to be able to do interesting things or make things with computers, there’s some apps and other toys on the market that can help them with that too,” added Cardella.

For the last three years, the research institute has released the guide with toys promoting STEM education.

INSPIRE’s assistant director, Elizabeth Gajdzik, said this year’s guide has more toys than ever with about 111 suggestions – ranging from coding and spatial reasoning to problem solving and critical thinking.

“This year we had a lot more toy companies who submitted things,” Gajdzik said. “To me, that shows they’re really thinking about STEM, and engineering and learning in a fun way.”

Before a toy can make it into the guide, it’s got to pass an extensive review process.

It begins with an internal review by INSPIRE staff. Then, other Purdue engineers are brought in for their opinion. After that, it’s time for the toughest critics – children and parents.

“The kids can let us know if it’s fun, if it’s something they would want to play with again; what they liked about it. The parents can let us know about the value,” Cardella said. “Does it have educational value? Is it a reasonable price? Is it something they might want to buy?”

Cardella and Gajdzik said the guide allows parents to give a gift that keeps on giving.

“Parents can give their children, this Christmas, a toy that’s not only educational but really fun,” explained Gajdzik.

Cardella added, “It’s really important for kids to have those experiences out of school, where they can learn about engineering.”

For a look at the 2016 gift guide, click here.