12yo wants to be an engineer…

(47 Posts)
SingToTheSleigh Fri 03-Dec-21 10:18:14

Not actually sure what type but it’s the direction he wants to head in. He’s autistic/ADHD and has always been obsessed with Lego and Transformers, makes amazing moving models etc.

Looking for an interesting non-Lego present idea that somehow captures this. There are a lot of kits like for cams/gears, electronics etc but they all seem a bit “one trick pony” I suppose? Like he’d build the model and that would be it. So I’m wondering if there’s anything that might have a bit more versatility and longevity. He’s not too keen on knex or meccano so I’m stumped!

Any ideas welcome 💐

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SMUnz Fri 03-Dec-21 10:21:19

My 12 year old daughter wants to be an eng and so I’ve bought her a scroll saw for Christmas it’s the kind the use in tech at school so she can let her imagination run wild with mdf and tin…think tools etc are the next step up from Lego and so on

5zeds Fri 03-Dec-21 10:22:22

Do you mean a “mechanic” or an “engineer” and if the latter there are lots of different types of engineering, (eg civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical) and lots of different positions within the field. Which bit of engineering has caught his interest?

SMUnz Fri 03-Dec-21 10:26:38

Should say I’m an engineer in the hydro power industry so we bridge elec, mech, civil and controls and all the engineers I know regardless of discipline get a buzz out of making stuff…especially if the thing you build solves a problem

Namenic Fri 03-Dec-21 10:31:26

I know you asked for non Lego, but there are a websites and books with technic ideas.


It’s a pain getting the parts (as may not all be in the set you have and could get expensive), but there is bricklink and you could look on eBay to see if you can get some sets that have been built once at a reduced price.

I try to only allow the kids supervised access to YouTube - as along with cool videos, there are weird ones out there. But great ball contraption videos are really cool (we haven’t attempted any, but hope to try some next year).

Phlaps Fri 03-Dec-21 10:36:33

Kiwi box subscriptions

OakleyStreetisnotinChelsea Fri 03-Dec-21 10:47:31

If he likes electronics then snap circuits are good. Some may be a little young but others are more complex like the green energy or arcade ones. There is also one that is designed to go with lego (or for legal purposes building blocks)

Or would he also like coding? Raspberry pi/kano are great and lots of add ons that can be made and coded.

We've had a few of the generic build a robot type this before and they are usually pants but those suggestions are great.

He may also like a perpetual marble run. Be wary though and start very basic. And depends on his level of patience because they are a pain in the bum. Gravitrax are great but a bit less interesting for an older child.


hellsbells99 Fri 03-Dec-21 11:34:17

DD is a graduate engineer and she really wishes she had done more coding etc so previous posters suggestion of a Raspberry pi is a good one. Otherwise we bought a mini soldering set which went down well and some of the models that you make as a one off. She also liked knex. Also things like an electric screwdriver.

hellsbells99 Fri 03-Dec-21 11:35:13

Or a 3D printer? Lots of fun

70isaLimitNotaTarget Fri 03-Dec-21 11:50:26

my DS has recently graduated as a Civil Engineer .
He played with Lego when he was little (My Dad bought him some when he was a toddler "Big Lego" ) then those Bionicles / Robots .

I always buy him a set of good quality art pencils ranging in hardness ( I know there's HB as a standard then vary hard-soft)

He loved those Mincraft and Roblox games

tallywag Fri 03-Dec-21 11:56:25

How about one of these kits?
Very good if he might like to get into robotics. The company also do brilliant courses - although they are a bit pricey.

KrakowDawn Fri 03-Dec-21 12:03:59

When DD was 12 we bought her hand tools and plywood, as she was desperate to make things. Also a Swiss army knife for whittling, and a whittling book to go with it.

CoffeeChocolateWine Fri 03-Dec-21 12:11:32

I’ve bought a V8 model engine for my DS who wants to be an engineer.

And last year a hydraulic robot arm was a big hit.

SeaToSki Fri 03-Dec-21 12:12:09

There is a great book called How Things Work

The lego that you can program then its building and coding

A coding course..lots of good online ones if he can engage in that way

Clockwork 3d puzzles

Model aircraft sets

Ball drop contraption sets

Domino race sets

penguinwithasuitcase Fri 03-Dec-21 12:13:22

Build Your Own Chain Reaction Machines from things around the house

A Strandbeest Kit?

Little Bits do amazing kits combining electrics and inventions for home (my nephew had a Rule You Room kit and LOVED it)

Sphero Mini is great for robotics

And I have no doubt there will be some great options in the The Kid Should See This Gift Guide (you can search by the tags at the top)

Brainwave89 Fri 03-Dec-21 12:33:48

As other posters have said Raspberry Pi. Have a look on google or Amazon. Loads of robotics, sound and automation kits and all the parts are reusable.

Beninthesortingoffice Fri 03-Dec-21 13:18:10

www.recantha.co.uk/blog/?p=20284 is a good book

CraftyGin Fri 03-Dec-21 13:48:12

Engineering is all about problem solving. If your DS could identify a problem that needs to be solved, and then design a solution.

I think learning to code would be very helpful to him.

Electronic kits, expensive Lego, etc, is all about following instructions.

BoredZelda Fri 03-Dec-21 14:07:47

Snap kits are a favourite here. It’s all to do with electronics.

Legoisawesome Fri 03-Dec-21 14:44:47

3D printer - ender 3 is amazing
Raspberry pi
Ant weight robot kits
Technic and motors for Lego building

Lovemusic33 Fri 03-Dec-21 15:15:41

My dd loves engineering too, she’s also on the spectrum and Lego obsessed. How about….

this build a engine?

Or this robotic arm building kit?

My dd is getting more Lego technics because she’s so destructive I can’t buy her much else. She loves knex too but the older stuff (big wheel etc…) and we have gravitrax.

morepatiencerequired Fri 03-Dec-21 15:25:46

I'm an engineer. My asd boy loves Lego and creating working machines; vending machines, guns, etc. He loves the Turing tumble I bought him. It's coding without a machine. My other kids love it too

SingToTheSleigh Tue 07-Dec-21 08:13:03

These are all great ideas thank you! Lots to think about not just for Christmas but for future projects too.

He has snap circuits but has been enjoying an advent calendar DH found on sale, where you build little electronic games out of basic components. He’s also doing the electronics section of KS3 physics (he’s home ed) so all working out quite nicely there!

I meant to say he does have a Turing Tumble - fantastic isn’t it?! I need to work through it myself too grin

It’s interesting that coding has been mentioned - he wasn’t keen for a long time but recently has become interested although it’s definitely the hands on physical stuff that interests him much more. We also have a micro:bit that a friend gave us when they first came out, I need to figure out what the hell to do with that.

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SingToTheSleigh Tue 07-Dec-21 08:20:09

@5zeds he does seem interested in mechanics - he will likely choose this as his vocational option at college when he’s 14 - but it really seems to be the design/problem solving aspect that he’s most interested in. Chemistry was his first love and he still enjoys that too, I gather chemical engineering is an option but need to find out more about that. I’m making sure he works hard on maths because I gather that’s vital for engineering too.

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SingToTheSleigh Tue 07-Dec-21 08:23:33

We are also going to go to themadmuseum.co.uk/ sometime but it’s a long trip from Sussex! He enjoyed the observatory science centre recently too, lots of hands on “how does this work” type stuff

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