Presents for an engineering type?
May 5, 2016 10:35 PM   Subscribe

I have a family member with Alzheimer's and I would like some help with gadget or engineery birthday presents for him. I always bought him books before as he was a reader and a novelist, but he says he can't concentrate enough to read now and I'm stuck!

He is very active, drives, sails, is restoring a classic car and does a lot of DIY. He originally trained as an engineer. I'd like to get him things linked to these activities but I'm not knowledgeable about what is available that he might not already have. Tools that are perhaps upgrades of standard tools in some way? Any suggestions would really help.

I'm not worried about things being too complicated for him as his cognitive abilities are affected far less at the moment than his memory. He is computer-literate and uses Linux. We already do a lot of things together, such as museums, so I don't need suggestions for experience-type presents. I also often give him things I have made so presents like that are sorted. He isn't at the stage where he needs gadgets to help with dementia like special clocks etc.

I have posted this anonymously as I don't feel comfortable with mentioning his illness online when it could be linked through me to his name.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
Is he into electronics? The DIY + Linux comments leads me to suggest that a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or similar might be something he'd like.
posted by rocketbadger at 12:29 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Arduino, etc.
posted by the_blizz at 4:55 AM on May 6, 2016

just to be clear, something like an arduino starter kit is probably best if he's not (yet) into electronics. because it's pretty basic stuff and would be a great way to start. but if he is already into electronics, it's likely going to be something he already knows.

you can get pretty cool oscilloscope kits these days that work with your phone or tablet. one of those would be fun to play with (although again, i suppose you could argue that if he's into electronics he may have one).

he sounds a bit like me. and tbh i am horrible to buy presents for, because if i want something i'll research it and buy it myself. one thing i've started to enjoy as i get older and have more free time is playing games. not really anything to do with engineering, and you say you already have experiences, together, but i'll suggest that anyway. there's a game called uluru that he might find interesting if he's ever done integer programming (process scheduling etc). and another called "three cheers for master" that feels a little like programming.

bit of a wild shot, but did he ever do technical drawing? if he did, and he's interested in doing it again (it's quite relaxing!) then some kind of drawing board (rotring make one), pens, etc, could be an idea. there's also this book that i found quite inspiring (not to read, but to give ideas).
posted by andrewcooke at 4:58 AM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are many types of building sets that could be Legos for an adult. Also lots of kinds of models, trains, airplanes, buildings, etc.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:02 AM on May 6, 2016

(lego just released an amazing porsche technics kit!)
posted by andrewcooke at 6:09 AM on May 6, 2016

Check out the gadgets on
posted by deathpanels at 6:15 AM on May 6, 2016

This might also be too basic, but there is a thing called snap circuits which is actually designed for kids, but which every adult I know enjoys fiddling with quite a lot. The kits use Lego style illustrations for project directions, or, of course, you can just tinker with the parts to build your own stuff.

Also, Erector Sets are still a thing, and might have some retro nostalgia appeal. He could build a working mini drone or a talking personal robot (which is huge!) or the Empire State building.
posted by anastasiav at 7:25 AM on May 6, 2016

What about a subscription to Make magazine? It still involves reading, but the articles are not long. It's packed with all kinds of good stuff for makers, like tool reviews, project ideas etc. etc.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:20 AM on May 6, 2016

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