Geeky (but not too geeky) swag for scientists
March 6, 2008 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm organizing a scientific meeting that will be held in late April. The attendees will be astronomers with a mathematical bent. We'd like to give them a "free" gift, but not the usual T-shirts and mugs. We thought of flash drives, but attendees probably have one already. Please give me your suggestions. Difficulty: (1) Can't spend more than $20/person. (2) Must have room for logos of five sponsors.
posted by lukemeister to Technology (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Five sponsors is a lot, but I really like the idea of a keychain sextant.
posted by rhizome at 1:35 PM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am not an astronomer, but I am a professional dork.

I would want the t-shirt or coffee cup. Especially the t-shirt. Can't go wrong with a conference t-shirt on a non-teaching day, or to mow the lawn, or to generally let yer dork flag fly when taking your fine lady to a moving picture show.

Suggestion: sweatshirt, not t-shirt? Astronomers get cold too, neh?

I think I still have my "1997 Merriam Lab Workshop" t-shirt somewhere.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:40 PM on March 6, 2008

Maybe its just me but I've never seen or received a piece of swag that didn't soon find its way into the trash.

How about you give them each a $20 bill and a postcard sized handbill with the logos of the sponsors on it?
posted by J-Garr at 1:41 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most of the conferences I go to these days give you a nice sturdy canvas bag instead of the plastic bags of yore. Also a reusable coffee mug or water bottle. All with logos. You are then asked to return them or re-use them next year. It is already becoming cool to have a 3 or 4 year old bag, I can't imagine how cool I'll be when I go to the 2020 conference with my 2005 bag! Oh yeah....

The coffee mug I got fall of 2006 is the best conference swag ever, nice steel air walled , no-spill dealie. Total bonus on the bags if they can double as shopping bags.
posted by fshgrl at 1:44 PM on March 6, 2008

If you can't find any magnetic monopoles, a Klein Bottle with the logos printed on the glass would be excellent.
posted by grumpy at 1:47 PM on March 6, 2008

You could look into a nice umbrella with a sponsor logo on each panel.

I've seen five sponsors on book/messenger bags.

How about a "moon chair"?

You could also look into branding a bottle of wine (maybe one with a name that matches an astronomy/math theme) with all of the logos.

A blanket is nice, especially for cold nights spent looking at stars.

Personally, I hate t-shirts because us "smalls" don't need yet another "extra-large."
posted by ml98tu at 1:59 PM on March 6, 2008

Oops, missed the geeky requirement in the title. Sorry about that.
posted by ml98tu at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2008

You can special order Rubik's cubes with logos printed on them
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:09 PM on March 6, 2008

Reusable shopping bags. I can't get enough Chico bags (nylon shopping bags that squash down very small), and would collect and carry anything like that. I just leave T-shirts, hats, water bottles and ugly, heavy conference bags in the hotel rooms if I can't avoid getting them.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:29 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: ml98tu,

Don't worry - I liked your suggestions!
posted by lukemeister at 2:46 PM on March 6, 2008

laser pointers with the little tips that make stars, crescents, dollar signs, etc.

propeller beanies
posted by Rumple at 2:48 PM on March 6, 2008

I got a tiny keychain LED flashlight at a science-art conference a few years ago, and I keep it in my pocket to this day. I've seen LED flashlights that include a white light for brightness and a second red light to preserve night vision - something that might be at least thematically pleasing for astronomers, even if they aren't the kind of astronomers who spend a lot of time out in the dark.
posted by moonmilk at 2:52 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: Rumple,

We already have virtual propeller beanies!
posted by lukemeister at 3:50 PM on March 6, 2008

solar calculator
A whole array of solar products

The biggest problem is fitting the five logos on your product, since you don't want a shirt. These items will definitely work:

If it might rain where you are, Poncho Balls, though not math or science specific, will imprint multiple logos on their products (balls with rain ponchos packaged inside).

Also, you can print just about anything on a lanyard, so five logos wouldn't be a problem.
posted by misha at 4:04 PM on March 6, 2008

Years ago there was a rumour about a maths conference where attendees received a shoe-shine brush with printed with "4 n \eta ft" (read it out loud).
posted by Jabberwocky at 4:12 PM on March 6, 2008

How about a . . . never mind, rhizome has the perfect answer.
posted by Neiltupper at 4:18 PM on March 6, 2008

Moon Real Estate?
posted by seanyboy at 4:34 PM on March 6, 2008

Please tell me you can't yet combine corporate logos with moon real estate.
posted by amtho at 4:46 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: amtho,

Well, there's Google Moon, although that's not the official name yet.
posted by lukemeister at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2008

I am an astronomer, and one of the cooler swags I got was at a conference in Sapporo, Japan. It was a wooden sake cup thing with "Sapporo 2005" (in Kanji) written on it. Not very dorky, I guess, but it still sits on my bookshelf. They also gave us a nice tote bag, but it's too small and flimsy to use as a grocery bag. Most astronomers lean towards the lefty-eco type and would probably use a real shopping bag. The only other swag I use are pens and notepads. Whatever you do, stay away from messenger bags and big binder things. They take up precious luggage space and will probably never get used again.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:00 PM on March 6, 2008

The sextant is awesome.
When I saw the five sponsors I kind of winced. Because coffee mugs and t-shirts are great, but if they have logos all over them I feel kind of silly using them. I wonder if you could print a little card with the five logos and somehow include it with or attach it to the sextant? With such a cool gift people will certainly at least look at the card before throwing it away and that is all the sponsors really need, right?
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:05 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

A custom Magic 8 ball? Needs to be a big conference to bring the per-ball charge to less than $20 if you want the custom-made answers.
posted by Cuppatea at 2:10 AM on March 7, 2008

We already have virtual propeller beanies!

OK, this calls for explanation and proof. Show your work.

Also, the 8-ball idea is awesome. Think of the swag as an icebreaker in the bar. How many bars are suitable for sextant use? A. none you'd want to be in. How many bars are suitable for magic 8-ball use? A. Overloaded conference ones with slow service and awkward acquaintances. Just make sure the answers include:

Buy a drink
Buy a round
Look in the bottom of your glass
Look on the bottom of your glass
The answer is hidden in your ice cube
posted by Rumple at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2008

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