Getting DIY with your digital kit is back in a big way.
Where tinkering with electronics was once the preserve of strange-smelling men with egg on their cardigans, the last year has seen a veritable explosion of tech that you can assemble and customise yourself, armed only with a soldering iron and a screwdriver.
We've rounded up a selection of the best gadgets for the new generation of Makers – some are fun, some are educational, some are useful, and a few are all three.
Voltage Village Glowing House Kit (£20)
A Boxing Day project and readymade relations-avoider, these little paper houses are a breeze to build and give off a warm homely glow at night thanks to the light sensor. There's no need for soldering – just used the bundled Electric Paint pen to draw on the circuitry.
Electro-fashion cat kit (£18)
Combining electronics with textiles, this kit comes with everything you need to make a stuffed felt cat with light-up green LED eyes. The secret sauce is the included two metres of conductive thread, which is used to carry charge from a coin cell battery pack via a push button switch in the cat's right ear.
You'll need scissors, a needle and pins and, ideally, an affection for cats. But hey, this is the Internet – who doesn't like cats?
Raspberry Pi Model B (£32)
It may not look like much, but the Raspberry Pi is a computer the size of a credit card. The dinky device has been used for everything from gaming to brewing to turning vegetables into musical instruments – its potential is only limited by your imagination. It's even been into outer space.
Adafruit Pi Printer Project Pack (£85)
If you're looking for a project for your newly-purchased Raspberry Pi, you might want to take a stab at this adorable little Internet of Things printer (not dissimilar in concept from the Little Printer). It's powered by Linux, and some understanding of basic Linux coding is recommended, but once it's set up you'll be printing tweets, Sudoku puzzles, weather forecasts and basically anything you fancy... if you have the time to make it work.
Note: Raspberry Pi Model B not included
Bare Conductive Christmas Cards kit (£15)
Light up your Yuletide greetings with this set of Christmas cards. Each pack of three cards comes complete with cutesey geometric illustrations, LEDs, batteries and an Electric Paint pen; just doodle a circuit onto the card, stick the components on and hey presto: twinkly lights for all!
Technology Will Save Us DIY Gamer Kit (£35)
The Technology Will Save Us crew want to get people engaged with technology and encourage experimentation – and their latest DIY gadget is a doozy. It's a DIY games console that you can have up and running in two hours with the help of a soldering iron – and it comes complete with D-pad controls and IR links for multiplayer gaming.
The console requires an Arduino board to play – you can pick up a kit with an Arduino included for £60.
More after the break...
Up! Plus 2 3D printer (£1620)
This Christmas, why not make your own gadgets and turn your house into a microfactory of the future? The Up! Plus won our 3D printer group test in the September issue of Stuff, delivering "the best results of the printers, quietly and consistently." Its successor adds automatic platform levelling and height calibration to the mix, which should make for even more impressive chess pieces, toy robots and other plastic trinkets.
Lego MindStorms EV3 (£250)
Lego's laying the building blocks for a new generation of hackers and programmers with the EV3 brick, the latest in its Mindstorms robotics range.
The winner of a coveted CES 2013 Hot Stuff Award, the Linux-based EV3 is the first Mindstorms brick that can be programmed without a PC, adding on-brick programming, an array of sensors and Android and iOS compatibility to your robot army.
This box set contains a Mindstorms EV3 brick, plus all the parts you'll need to make this Johnny-5-gone-wrong robot, a snappy mechanical snake or anything your imagination can conjure up.
Big Shot DIY Camera (£60)
This build-it-yourself digital camera gives you a 3MP sensor, a flash, a 1.4in LCD screen, USB connection and the ability to shoot regular, stereoscopic 3D and panoramic photos through a twistable lens wheel. There’s a rechargeable lithium polymer battery, but if that runs dry when you’re out shooting you needn’t worry: a handcrank can be used to top it up using good old-fashioned elbow grease.
A perfect stocking filler for inveterate tinkerers, Sugru is a self-setting rubber that can be moulded into any shape and will bond with everything from glass to wood to metal. It's flexible when it cures, and is both waterproof and electrically insulating. You can use it for anything from sealing engine parts to shock-proofing a camera – think of it as Silly Putty for grown-ups.
Makey Makey (£40)
Turn any old junk into a keyboard, mouse and joystick with this Arduino-based controller – just attach the alligator clips onto the objects of your choice, plug it into your PC via USB and tap away to your heart's content. Want to play Super Mario Bros with a twig? Or turn a banana into a piano? Go right ahead.
DJI Naza F450 Quad drone kit (£320)
2013 is the year of the drone, and what better way to see it out than by making your own? This easy-to-assemble kit provides you with your very own quadrotor, complete with the Naza V2 Flight Controller for easy take-off and improved maneuverability, including automatic course deviation compensation and GPS. Bear in mind that you'll need a radio transmitter and receiver for RC control – which will add around £200 to the total price.