Still have some holiday shopping to do? Behrend faculty and staff members have you covered

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

The mad dash is almost here. It’s time to get those final holiday gifts before it’s too late.

Still scrambling for ideas? Don’t worry, Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members have you covered. Here are some of their top suggestions for gifts that are both fun and educational.


Ideas provided by Melanie Ford, director of Youth Education Outreach

Jewelbots. Look pretty while you learn about programming? That’s exactly what girls can accomplish with Jewelbots, the friendship bracelet that teaches kids to code. $69

Robot Turtles. Designed for children ages four and up, this interactive board game helps teach young people how to program. $15

Pokemon. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Pokemon are once again hotter than ever.  Whether it’s the cards or the video games, there are plenty of ways to “catch ‘em all” this holiday season. Prices vary

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, senior lecturer in chemistry

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything. Quite literally, molecules make up everything. How exactly does one visualize that, though? Theodore Gray does that for you in this book, which features stunning photography of the chemical structures that make up every material in the world. $20

Instant Snow. Even as one of America’s snowiest cities, the white stuff has been mostly absent from the region so far. We cannot make snow fall from the sky, but this gift allows a person to actually make snow (and learn about chemistry while he or she is at it.) $18

Minecraft Cookie Cutters. Every child seems to love Minecraft. Every child definitely loves cookies. This is a no-brainer. $10

Ideas provided by Dr. Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering

Merge VR Goggles. 2016 is the year that virtual reality headsets hit the mainstream. The Merge VR Googles turn a person’s smartphone into a virtual reality headset. You’re then able to enjoy fully-immersive virtual environments and games right from the comfort of your living room. $60

Google Cardboard. While Google Cardboard might not look as cool as the Merge Goggles, it offers a similar experience and at a great price. $15

Idea provided by Tom Noyes, professor of English and creative writing

“Best American” book series. For bibliophiles on your list, you might check out the annual “Best American” series. Each year, 2016 included, editors compile the best examples of writing from magazines around the country. The three standards, “Best American Short Stories,” “Best American Poetry,” and “Best American Essays” are great, as are some of the other volumes, including “Best American Mystery Stories,” “Best American Sports Writing,” “Best American Science and Nature Writing,” and “Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy.” $10-$15

Idea provided by Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management

Tile Mate. Is there someone on your list who is notorious for losing his or her keys? They won’t be anymore. This Bluetooth tracking device is small, durable and water resistant, and it can easily be attached to keys, luggage, backpacks, or anything else you carry. $25

Recommended gift ideas from faculty members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In need of some last-minute holiday gift ideas for the young ones in your life? How about something that’s fun and educational at the same time?

We asked Penn State Behrend faculty members to give us a few suggestions.


School of Science

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, senior lecturer in chemistry

  • Science of the Month Club. Inspire the next generation of scientists by having hands-on science delivered to your door each month! For just $24.99 a month, you get everything you need to conduct exciting experiments.
  • Sunlight, Skyscrapers, and Soda Pop: The Wherever-You-Look Science Book. This fun book helps children learn the science behind simple, everyday activities. $9.95
  • Yahn Planetarium Gift Certificates. Have you heard? Penn State Behrend now has its very own planetarium. Help someone see worlds beyond their reach by purchasing a gift certificate, available in any denomination. For more information, contact planetarium director Jim Gavio ( or 814-898-7268).
  • Star Wars Lightsaber Thumb Wrestling. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a new Star Wars film is hitting theaters next year. Celebrate by picking up this fun game. May the thumb be with you… $12.99


School of Business

Ideas provided by Eric Robbins, lecturer in finance

  • Board games. Life and Monopoly are two timeless classics. The fast-paced, rummy-like game Five Crowns is another great option. $9.99 to $24.99
  • Go Venture. This is a series of business simulation and financial literacy computer games that are good for kids of all ages. $495
  • Kano. This is the perfect gift for those with really innovative minds. Kano provides a kit kids can use to build their own computers, in a form similar to LEGOs, then play games on what they just built. $149.99


School of Humanities and Social Science

Ideas provided by Dr. Tom Noyes, associate professor of English and creative writing

  • Books! Some gift ideas never get old, and that’s the case here. In particular, Tom suggests using NPR’s Book Concierge app to find the perfect book for those on your shopping list.
  • Art supply sets. Participation in the visual arts helps children develop an imagination and sharpen their eye for detail. $13.99 and up


School of Engineering

Ideas provided by Dr. Matthew White, assistant professor of game development

  • Amiibos. Action figures + video games = tons of fun. $12.99
  • Pokémon. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pokémon video games have been one of the hottest-selling video games for years, and that’s true in 2014 as well. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire qualify as two of the most popular games this season. $39.99
  • Xbox One. It’s one of the top game systems in the world, and for a limited time, it can be had at a lower price ($349) than normal.