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You know that a geeky gift has gone mainstream when you see it for sale at your local hardware store. Such is the case with the 3-D printer, which was our Science Geek Gift of the Year back in 2010 — and is now popping up everywhere, from Home Depot to the International Space Station.
It's time once again to take a look at holiday gift prospects for the science geek on your list — and once again, we're starting out with the 3-D printing angle. Over the past year or two, 3-D printing pens priced around $100 have made a splash in the gadget go-around, starting with 3Doodler.
Such devices work pretty much like 3-D printers, but they're directed by your hand rather than computer-controlled actuators. Molten plastic is extruded as a thin stream that solidifies in the air, creating a three-dimensional scribble or shape.
Some folks have made light of the idea, calling these pens little more than glorified glue guns. But the technology is opening the door to some interesting innovations — such as the custom-made exoskeleton that a 3Doodler user created to help her broken hand heal.
3Doodler, which became a reality thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, is just the earliest entry in what could become a crowded field. Other 3-D printing pens are on the way, such as the Yaya 3D Pen, the 3D Air Pen, the 3D Printer Pen, the 3D Simo, the LIX Pen, the Polyes Q1 and the CreoPop.
Four years from now, will 3-D printing pens be as much in the mainstream as desktop 3-D printers are this year? Or will they fall as flat as a CueCat barcode reader? Make a note, and we'll check back in 2018.
Now it's your turn: We've been rounding up geeky science gifts for more than a decade, and the best ideas usually come from your suggestions. How else would we have found out about the spinthariscope, one of the few toys out there that's nuclear-powered? Or glow-in-the-dark uranium marbles, for that matter?
Over the long Thanksgiving (and holiday shopping) weekend, send in your suggestions for geeky science gifts you'd like to receive, or give, or just think about. Even though you may not need a zombie plant growing kit, for example, it's just good to know such things exist in the world.
Leave your suggestion as a comment on this item, or post it to the NBC News Science Facebook page. We'll round up a few of our favorites and choose the Science Geek Gift of 2014 next week. The person who suggests the top gift on our list will be eligible to receive a holiday goodie bag. May the geekiest gift win!
The Cosmic Log science geek gift archive:
- 2002: The gift of science
- 2003: Toys go back to the future
- 2004: Gifts for science geeks
- 2005: Find your star for the holidays
- 2006: Give the gift of a nuclear-powered toy
- 2007: Season's readings in science
- 2008: 'Stand Back, I'm Going to Buy an xkcd Shirt'
- 2009: Gifts from the sixth dimension
- 2010: Make your own geeky goodness
- 2011: Go for a geeky science gift that glows
- 2012: Space calendar takes the geek gift prize
- 2013: Spaceflight sim wins geeky glory
More geek gift suggestions:
- NBC News' Tech Gift Guide
- ExtremeTech's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide
- Nerdist's Gift Guide for the Science Geek
- ThinkGeek's DIY and Science Toys
- Geek Dad Gift Guide
- Science Gifts From Etsy
- Educational Innovations
- Edmund Scientific
- Quirky's Gifts for Geeks
- Zazzle's Geek Gifts
- xkcd Store
- Geek Gifts From Uncommon Goods
- Science Nerd Gifts From Amazon