My cousin's 19-year old son has a birthday coming up and he is quite intelligent with computers, software and electronics. What's a fun / serious electronics-related gift I could buy him? Anything from robotic kits to electronic development platforms accepted as ideas. Ideally something with a serious use-case also, so its not simply a toy you use and throw.
closed as not constructive by Kellenjb, clabacchio♦, Kevin Vermeer Apr 13 '12 at 14:16
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Have you heard of Logiblocks?
Each block is a simple function, and you can easily create circuits by plugging these things together. The blocks in the picture are configured as a burglar alarm, something I used to love making when I was a kid. You can also make robots, spy stuff, etc.
There's also Tinker Forge
This is a great stacking system which lets you build all kinds of robotics systems, and even connect them up to your PC, iPhone etc. And even has a wireless link.
And don't forget Cubelets
Each cube can do a different thing, drive, sense, etc. Plug them together and make a robot.
How about an Arduino and some shields? It gives the benefits of both hardware and software learning.
How about a small breadboard with a handful discrete components like in Velleman EDU01? Analog electronics is the basis of all and it is essential to understand if you want to be able to drive electronics from a microcontrollers. It teaches about basic circuits, makes a LED light up upon touching, makes a burgular alarm, running flashlight ... that sort of thing. Check the accompanying booklet
At 19 years, and assuming sufficient 'wet' processing power, almost anything will do. Arduino, PICs, Solderless breadboard + bag of components, Raspberry Pi, subscription to an electronics hobby magazine.
But if the kid is already 'quite intelligent with computers, software and electronics' he must have done something already, so why not ask him what he fancies next?