Listen: Number crunching isn’t for everyone, but those who take to it tend to have a palpable passion, much like the author of this gift guide has for, you know, crunchy treats. If you’ve got a loud-and-proud math geek on your holiday shopping list, though, chances are you’d like to leverage that love and find them a mind-blowing, formula-friendly gift. Thankfully, here at UncommonGoods, we’ve got plenty of playful stuff for the calculator crowd, from neckties to specially decorated drinking glasses, and we’ve collected ten of our favorite specimens here for your reference. Read on for figs. 1-10.
For space geeks, it’s an awesome time to be alive. From the Great American eclipse to Cassini’s swan song, 2017 was a big year for space stuff. And with new, weird exoplanets popping up all the time and propulsion innovations bringing us closer to Mars, the future’s looking equally far out. So for all the stargazers on your list, we’ve assembled a constellation of space-inspired gifts to make the holidays merry and bright as Alpha Canis Majoris.
The labels “geek” and “nerd” are insults no more. In fact, they’re badges of honor. These days, “You are such a nerd,” is a compliment to math lovers who spend hours on calculations and science fans who’d rather spend a night stargazing than doing almost anything else. As proud nerds ourselves, we are extra excited to present this round-up of great gift ideas for folks who aren’t afraid to let their geek flags fly.
Product: Keyboard Waffle Iron
I used to love waffles, but forced myself into pancakes. I didn’t want to be bothered with finding a place to store a waffle maker once I purchased it or the hassle of having a bunch of cords in the kitchen. The Keyboard Waffle Iron, without explanation, is pretty cool, but the fact that I could (possibly) make a good looking waffle and be able to store it is what especially caught my interest.
Whether you flew through calculus or crawled your way through freshman year algebra, a party with pie is something everyone can get behind. Enter Pi Day, a nerdtastic celebration of all things pi and pie.
For those of you who erased most of high school math from your memory (this writer who had to look it up on Wikipedia included), pi is the symbol used by mathematicians to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference. Sure!
Since pi is an irrational number, it has an infinite number of digits in its decimal representation. However, the first few digits (3.141592…) are the digits used to designate the “Pi” holiday, celebrated on 3/14. This year is a special year, as 3/14/15 represents even more digits of pi! What a time to be a math lover!
UncommonGoods loves math, to say the least, so we had our pick of great pi paraphernalia. Using math plates, bottle openers, and pizza stones, we were able to create a well-calculated (get it???) table spread that was just as delicious as it was educational.
However you decide to celebrate Pi Day this year, make it a celebration of math, geekery, and pastry. It’s the only day of the year when everyone can be a numbers nerd—even if you only ever used your calculator to spell funny words upside down.
Happy Pi Day! May your crusts be buttery and your fillings be plentiful.
Tiffany Ard has been a long time favorite artist of UncommonGoods. We’ve featured a multitude of her fantastically scientific and geeky products. However, she had some ideas that she couldn’t execute herself, so she asked UncommonGoods to develop products with her. We knew this would be a huge opportunity for us and couldn’t wait to get on board.
While she may be known as the Nerdy Baby Lady, she is a creative force to be reckoned with. From the very beginning of development, her enthusiasm was exciting. I couldn’t believe the depth of her knowledge for these higher level STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math, as she taught me) concepts. Every time she would forward a new set of art for our review, I would learn something new while fact checking. Who knows what a P-Orbital is? I do now.
This was our first product with the manufacturer, so Tiffany and I would go back and forth, refining her artwork until we got it right for production. After a grueling development cycle, we finally blew a sigh of relief when we got the final sets in hand. We collectively agreed that the aptly named Super Nerdy ABC Blocks would be a big hit in our collection. It is still one of my favorite projects during my time here at UncommonGoods. I can’t wait to get working on our next project with Tiffany, but before diving into our next brainstorming session, Tiffany agreed to take a pop quiz about her art, the blocks, and growing up geeky.
What was your favorite science project as a kid?
Oh, gosh just one? I loved science and read almost everything in the school library’s nonfiction section. I liked inventing stuff. When I was about nine I wanted to make a doorbell that our dog could ring by scratching on the door. The guy at Radio Shack showed me how to make a circuit with a switch. I set it up with a horrible sounding buzzer, and when it was done, my dad helped me attach this clunky, awful-looking contraption to the front door. Which thinking back is weird because we were renting and our landlord was sort of a grump! I hope they got their deposit back.
But the other constant was art. My earliest memories are of mixing paints. What an awesome experiment that can be for a kid, you know? Nothing blows up, nothing expensive to ruin, just seeing what happens when you mix this shade with that until you have a big gray sludgy mess—and then you rinse your brushes and start again.
When did you first come to the conclusion that you were a nerd?
Well, you know junior high is an age where kids are looking around to see where they fit in. I was too afraid of being hit by a ball to do sports, too shy to be a theater kid, too unpopular to be one of the popular kids. The kids I spent time with liked Douglas Adams and Carl Sagan. We liked writing stories and inventing languages and pretending to be time travelers. Hmm. Maybe “dorks” is a better word than “nerds!”
What are your favorite science facts that everyone should know?
I tell my kids that there are no scientific FACTS. Just answers that explain what we see happening around us, and new information can always change our understanding. But I’m being annoying, homeschooley, science mom.
My current favorite facts:
1. Evolution is real, y’all. It’s worth the effort to understand, because it is amazing.
2. That said, dinosaurs and humans DID co-exist. In fact we still do! My son has two of them as pets and they’re just as loud and messy and demanding as you would expect little, feathered dinosaurs to be.
3. Your body has more bacteria cells than human cells.
Why is it important to give kids gifts that are both fun and educational?
It isn’t! I mean, let’s be honest—you really do not need to cram kids’ brains with scientific terminology. The best gifts invite open ended play and make kids feel empowered to experiment fearlessly. If they happen to learn some fun science facts, all the better.
Which illustration on the Super Nerdy ABC Blocks is your favorite and why?
Oh gosh. I love Io with its cute little active volcano. But my favorite might be the derpy-eyed flatworm. Those worms really look like that!
From Absolute Zero to Zoological Oddity, your ABCs cover some pretty interesting material. How did you decide what to put on the blocks?
This was a fun exercise in problem solving. There are 26 letter blocks, each block has six sides. My kids helped me brainstorm ideas. For some letters, there were too many options to choose from! Feynman, Friction, Fahrenheit, Force, Freefall, Fibonacci… For those it came down to deciding which would translate best into small, one-color illustrations.
What are some fun ways to use Super Nerdy Blocks, aside from just stacking them up and knocking them over?
Spell your name. Look for patterns. Sort by type of interest—biology, chemistry, math. Make paths. Hide them all over the house and look for A-Z. Close your eyes and pick one block, and then challenge a friend to define the term.
Besides giving kids super-fun math and science toys, what else can grownups do to help encourage kids to embrace their nerdiness?
Model CURIOUSITY. Act excited when you don’t know something. Let kids see you trying and failing and trying again as you tackle learning something that’s hard for you. Let them experiment, let them play, and create a space where it’s always okay to make wrong guesses.
Product: HTML Beer Glasses
I first saw UG’s HTML Beer Glasses in our warehouse – a shipment had just arrived and a few units were pulled out for our Receiving team to quality check. I had no idea what they were for. Honestly, my first thought was, “Why would anyone want a beer glass with weird printing on it?” Then one of the guys explained to me that the idea behind the printing is to help create the perfect pour – ah-hah! That made a lot more sense. So, feeling a bit like an idiot, I researched the seemingly-simply-but-actually-intricate-act of…pouring a beer.
My initial thoughts: I will likely learn way more about foam than I ever imagined. I will be able to pour a prettier beer, but with little effect on actual taste. I will take regrettable pictures of myself and co-workers “testing” various possible scenarios.
First step – Grab up various coworkers and head to our friendly neighborhood watering hole.
Second step – Make contact with helpful bartender, Mike. Tell him of our educational needs.
Final step – Drink and make merry!
We headed to the Irish Haven in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for their weekly “Taco Tuesday” night. Despite the busyness, Mike was quite cheerful about both discussing our cool glasses and letting us know how they worked. He poured an IPA into one of our HTML Glasses and a Belgian Wheat beer in the other. Both poured perfectly in line with the glass’s indicators, though we were quick to note a difference after the pour.
Turns out, given the height and shape of these glasses, they should be used for ales or lagers. The tall, thin style will keep them colder longer, and the relatively light head those beers come with will be well-showcased by the lean shape. Lighter beers will evaporate more quickly. Something like a good quality ale will work fine in this glass, but when you go lighter, like the Belgian we tried, it will evaporate too quickly and the head will be lost. If pouring a “sturdier,” heavier beer, it would make sense to have a wider glass, as this will allow the beer to breathe more. Those beers tend to have heavier foaming characteristics anyway, so one has to worry less about the head evaporating.
Mike explained that the quality of the beer also matters. The better the beer, the better the pour, the better the taste. If we poured a typical American ale into one of these glasses, it would likely not retain a good amount of foam on top, regardless of the quality of the pour or the quality of the glasses.
Beer, in all its forms, is wonderful. But if you want to get the perfect pour of high quality lager or ale, these glasses will show you the way with style.
As product developers, we get the chance to work with a number of really amazing, talented artists and designers. Since launching our first uncommon product, we’ve connected with incredibly interesting people and learned a lot about working with the design community. There’s a lot we could tell you about working with designers – but we realize that there’s something we don’t know much about at all – what it’s like for designers working with us.
We wanted to find out more about the artists’ take on collaborating with UncommonGoods, so we asked some! Recently, we had the pleasure of working with Jason Snyder and Briana Feola of Brainstorm to create our new Earth Science Glasses and Coasters featuring their vibrant and retro-feeling Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Space prints. Not only was the design duo happy to answer our questions about the inspiration behind their art, but they also gave us some great insights into working with the UncommonGoods Product Development team.
What was your original inspiration for this series?
After leafing through some vintage science books and thinking to ourselves that the information is so important but the graphics are always less than pleasing to look at, the series started with our “Atmosphere” print. It was a short run, maybe 30 prints, and they received a tremendous response online. So we re-printed that and started to expand on the layered, graphic concept to create a series and round out the concept. Over the course of a year, “Earth” was second and “Ocean” came third.
How was your love of science born?
Briana: Science was the other subject that kept my attention growing up, aside from art class. It was always the most fascinating but so complex at the same time. Coupled with some really great teachers over the years, I was completely hooked. It only makes sense that I try and merge my favorite ideas from my early school days.
Jason: I think science in general carries with it such an immense range of interesting (and complicated) topics and that really lends itself well to education if executed the right way. I have an Art Education degree, so combining these awesome sciences with education is really how a lot of my ideas come together. I don’t even know if that answers the question but that’s what I came up with.
Tell us your favorite science joke.
A photon walks in to the airport and the ticket agent asks him, “Are you checking any bags today?” and he says, “No, I’m traveling light.”
What was your initial thought when UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team contacted you?
We were super excited to get involved and we were ready immediately. We had both been following UncommonGoods for a long time and after meeting some of the awesome team members at the 2013 National Stationery Show, we had hoped there would be an opportunity to work together!
What was the most challenging thing about working with UncommonGoods? What was the most exciting?
There’s a lot of correspondence that has to happen to get a product off the ground. And the amount of time it takes to go from “let’s do this” to “the product is online” is much longer than we were used to, having the ability to produce our screenprints ourselves as soon as they’re ready. We adopted more patience. Easily the most exciting thing is the day our first product arrived in hands. Going from idea to real product is the best!
How does it feel to have your art on these products?
It feels a little bit surreal. Knowing that these glasses are in kitchen cabinets and kids (and adults!) are drinking out of them and learning a thing or two, it’s just fantastic. We can both remember sitting at the kitchen table as kids reading cereal boxes and looking at colorful, pictorial cups. And now we are a part of the culture in a way we can be proud of.