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What to give the science whiz

By John Bordsen and Tyler Dukes
Staff Writers

This holiday season, give someone you love a present for the desk or playroom that generates curiosity as well as smiles. These items are sure to do the trick.

Worx firetruck

Ideal for: Curious kids. Toys in the Worx line – a car, firetruck and chopper – have translucent plastic bodies. When your child (6 and up) reads the accompanying interactive storybook about any of 20 or so parts that make the real vehicle function, he or she can press the Worx touch pad – which makes that specific toy part glow and “work.” The Speedster car is $29.99, but splurge on the Torch firetruck ($59.99), which is also self-propelled.

$59.99 at www.worxtoys.com.

The Amazing Squishy Brain

Ideal for: Aspiring neurosurgeons. You can build a thoughtful head, then take it apart – repeatedly – from 24 anatomically correct pieces that include an eight-piece skull, an equal number of squishy brain portions, squishy eyeballs, vertebrae and spinal cord. Mini-tools include forceps, scalpel and tweezers. (See a video of kids assembling one, at http://bit.ly/TN4NjX). It comes with a book appropriately titled “Heads Up.”

$27.99 at www.smartlabtoys.com.

Multicolored glass Galileo thermometer

Ideal for: Desk-bound dreamers; home décor. In the early 1600s, the thermoscope – an ancestor of the thermometer – was invented, based on Galileo’s observation that a liquid’s density changes in proportion to its temperature. Small, sealed and marked glass bulbs, filled with liquid, rise or fall in a larger transparent cylinder of clear liquid; the lowest floating sphere indicates the temperature. Models from Edmund Scientific range in size from 12 inches (shown here) to 22 inches. The bulbs – calibrated in four-degree increments – are filled with liquids of different colors, making it a desktop eye-catcher.

$13.95-$49.95 at www.scientificsonline.com.

Cybug Solar Fly 2

Ideal for: Anyone 12 and older with twin interests in robots and solar power. Can you borrow a soldering iron? That and some basic tools are all that’s required to assemble this solar-powered robot that’s shaped like a housefly. While it doesn’t fly, its infrared eyes detect light and make the insect creep toward the light source. (You could use lamps and flashlights to set up an obstacle course for it!). The fly also can draw power through its antennae when it “eats” at “feeding stations” you can build (instructions included).

$49.95 at www.scientificsonline.com.

‘The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science’

Ideal for: Laboratory lovers. Science can be a chaotic process. What better way to demonstrate that fact than with this collection of 64 experiments designed to cause a little manageable mischief? Build rockets, create homemade lightning or trigger a soda geyser – and learn about a few underlying science principles along the way.

$12.95 at www.amazon.com.

Fireworks Lightshow in My Room

Ideal for: Insomniacs, ages 6 to 97. This hand-held device projects images of fireworks onto walls or ceilings and also plays booming sound effects. There are different light shows on a disc you can rotate; pick the projection you want.

$46.99 at Discovery Place, 301 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.

Thames & Kosmos’ Motors & Generators

Ideal for: Engineers, 8 and older. Electric motors and generators are all around us in things we use every day. With Motors & Generators, conduct 25 experiments to learn how an electric motor converts electricity into motion – and that an electric generator does just the opposite, converting motion into electricity (48-page manual included).

$39.99 at Discovery Place.

Connor’s Kits for Kids: Polymer Power

Ideal for: The DIY junior chemist. You can buy off-the-shelf “slime” anywhere, but what if you’re looking for something a little more custom? Among other science kits from this Chapel Hill company, Polymer Power allows budding scientists to make their own squishy creations; run it through the “Slimer-izer” to change the consistency to whatever they like.

$19.95 at www.kitsforkids.com.

GeoSafari Pocket Scope

Ideal for: Te 8- to 13-year-old explorer. From the tiny bugs on the ground to their predators perched high up in the trees, get a better view of the natural world with this combination microscope and telescope. The retractable device fits in your pocket, so you can see things eight times farther and 30 times larger anywhere you go.

$12.99 at www.educationalinsights.com.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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