Mechanical Engineers are tough to shop for. They lean toward gifts that are practical, functional and unique. Being an engineer myself, I wanted to assemble what I think are the best gifts for mechanical engineers and mechanical engineering students.
Whether it’s a graduation gift for a student, birthday present or Christmas gift, I hope this gift guide helps you finish your gift shopping faster than ever and brings a smile to a mechanical engineer’s face. Show them you understand their passion for engineering and support them when they geek out over your perfect gift.
This list is a compilation of my favorites from around the internet. Some are our own Genius Lab Gear inventions and some we’re just jealous we didn’t think of first! Some external links in this page are from affiliates, which means that any purchase of the items after clicking the link will result in a small monetary referral fee paid back to Genius Lab Gear at no cost to you. We appreciate your support which allows us to continue inventing and testing the best tools for engineers on the planet!
Gifts for Mechanical Engineers under $50
1. The Pocket Engineer Wallet Ruler and Unit Conversion Reference
The most practical and unique pocket tool for any student or professional in mechanical engineering. It’s the size of a credit card and packed with functionality and information that a mechanical engineer will need on daily basis both in school and on the job.
The laser-cut and laser-engraved stainless steel has a thick black enamel coating to prevent scratching and stand up to years of abuse. One of the best cheap gadget gifts that any mechanical engineer will geek out over. You can order directly through our site or on Amazon with the links below.
2. rOtring or Staedtler Mechanical Pencil
Mechanical pencils are considered the #1 daily essential for mechanical engineers. They let you precisely draw diagrams for homework or professional work with the option to make fine adjustments with the eraser. In the new digital age, mechanical pencils are still required but mechanical engineers often find themselves using touchscreens as well.
That’s why my new favorite is the rOtring 800 Retractable Mechanical Pencil, (0.5 mm). This one turns from a pencil to a stylus on the fly, and also ensures the tip isn’t poking holes in your pocket all day like most other models. This is truly the top-end mechanical pencil and will make a special gift.
Staedtler is another brand much-loved by engineers. This model is cheaper and will last a long time, but just isn’t convertible to a stylus. You can’t go wrong with either one.
3. Funny Engineering-themed Word Magnets
We recently launched a full line of science and engineering-themed word magnets and of course made a set specifically for engineers! Each specialty pack comes with 144 tiles carefully designed by a PhD in that field for technical accuracy and tacit absurdity. These make for a funny mechanical engineering gift for students for a dorm, lab or office that lets them express their technical side but isn't work-oriented.
4. Rocketbook Matrix cloud-connected reusable paper notebook
This is my favorite clever invention. It was inevitable. Rocketbook finally solved the problem of merging your hand-written notes into your favorite digital services. You simply use their app to take a photo of your pages of notes and the QR code and marked symbols on each page trigger the app to send the digitized page to any of the 9 pre-set digital destinations you choose. This includes OneNote, Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox and even specific emails. Want a shortcut to send notes via email straight to your colleague or boss? This is what you’re looking for.
The Rocketbook Matrix is my personal favorite because it's designed for more technical work. It's got 30 pages of graphing paper and one regular lined page for taking notes, plus a built-in ruler on the inside cover. Did I mention they are resuable? Use their "Pilot Frixion" pens and then wipe the page with a damp cloth after uploading your notes to use it all over again (and win one for the environment!).
5. Enki Engineering spiral-bound engineering notebook
If you want to go a more traditional route, this is hands-down the best mechanical engineering notebook out there. Most engineering paper comes loose-leaf and makes a mess when trying to keep your homework or projects straight. Standard engineering paper also has a bold grid on the back which makes the backside unusable for anything but drawings.
Enki Engineering solved both of these problems with their spiral-bound, double-sided engineering paper notebook. They redesigned the grid pattern to be lightly printed on both sides, doubling the usable area (and saving some trees!). It's a little more expensive than loose-leaf engineering paper but is well worth getting the more thoughtfully-designed notebook. This makes a fantastic "upgrade" gift for any engineering student or professional.
6. Books for mechanical engineers to read for pleasure (not textbooks!)
Engineers often get stuck in a loop of always reading technical documents, textbooks and journal articles. It’s important to occasionally break that cycle and dive into a book for pleasure. Below are a few of our favorite science-related books that will be an enjoyable read for any scientist or engineer.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This is our all-time favorite book that any scientist or engineer will enjoy reading. For such a technical book, it’s got an incredible plot yet isn’t overly dramatized (except a little at the end). No other fiction book has captured this much popularity while running through exact calculations, estimations and scientific principles just to keep someone alive. You’ll be rooting for Mark Watney and inspired by the idea that your technical knowledge could one day save your life.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
This biography of Elon Musk quickly became a bestseller for its engaging look at the quintessential engineering hero. Biographies are often boring, but not this one. Musk’s life is a roller coaster of visionary undertakings, massive setbacks and outside-the-box thinking that will inspire any engineer to reach further in their own work.
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich
A popular and highly-rated classic about the top secret “Skunk Works” engineering projects at Lockheed Martin that helped win the Cold War, written by the head of the division for two decades. It covers the pinnacle of high-pressure, high-stakes ultra-secretive engineering projects and the technological game of chess that the USA was playing with the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It includes anecdotes and testimonials from high-ranking government officials and pilots on revolutionary projects like the SR-71 Blackbird, F-116 Stealth Fighter and U-2 spy plane.
I personally loved this book and laughed out loud in nearly every chapter. It's an enjoyable and inspiring read for any engineer who has a true passion for problem solving and cutting-edge technology. The reader will also take away valuable lessons for managing technical projects and teams of scientists and engineers to achieve nearly impossible goals.
More recommended books for Graduate Students:
If the person you have in mind is also a graduate student, take a look at our new list of The Best Books to Make You a Better Grad Student.
7. Magnetic wristband for hands-on building and repairs
This magnetic wristband is a cheap but extremely handy add-on that is universally loved by mechanics, machinists, and mechanical engineers who like to build or fix things. Mine has helped stop my constant clumsiness dropping tiny screws or misplacing my drill bit heads.
Gifts for Mechanical Engineers under $100
8. Raspberry Pi 4 kit for custom robotics and DIY projects
A Raspberry Pi is a miniature bare-bones computer that is fully programmable using the Python language. There’s a whole ecosystem of “makers” sharing how-to guides and helping each other on special DIY projects using these. Mechanical engineers are the best “makers” out there and often enjoy building and creating unique custom gadgets that the Raspberry Pi enables.
Most mechanical engineers can easily handle the minimal Python coding necessary (following guides). Examples they would love include robotic cars, smart home hubs, and even a real magic mirror. I personally made this one and it was a ton of fun! See a full list of projects on the Adafruit projects page.
9. Mitutoyo Digital Calipers for precise measurements
Every mechanical engineer (or student) doing hands-on work learns that a good set of calipers is essential to the job. They let you take precise measurements of small objects - this lets you recreate them in 3D modeling, check fit tolerances before assembling parts, or help to design a new product around an existing item.
This particular caliper set measures down to 10 microns and is the gold standard used in most university and industry labs. Mitutoyo is known for precision and durability, and the digital readout helps to save time and reduce errors in recording the measurements. Spend the extra money upfront on this set and your mechanical engineer will be set for at least a decade or two. If this one isn't in your budget, you can go for the analog version or a much cheaper but useful one for less-precise projects.
Ultimate gifts for Mechanical Engineers (under $200)
10. Hakko digital soldering station
Any mechanical engineer that deals with robotics, machinery, or electronics integrated into their builds will need to solder components together, especially for “maker” DIY projects. I personally own this Hakko digital soldering station for these projects. Hakko isn’t the cheapest, but has consistently been the #1 recommended brand from all the “old-timer” engineers I’ve talked to and should last a lifetime.
If you’re going all-in get the full kit (what I have), but just the station is a great start that they can add to as needed. There are much cheaper options that will get you by but may not last as long as the Hakko kits.
11. FLIR thermal imaging camera for smartphones
If you have the budget, this FLIR thermal imaging camera is an amazing tool that any mechanical engineer would find plenty of uses for. Primarily it can identify hot-spots where insulation is cracked, fluids are leaking, or components are overheating. You can also just have a lot of fun around the house and in the kitchen exploring the thermals of your world. Many people buy this and make their money back in heating/AC bills by looking at their doors, windows, and walls for gaps or poor insulation.
Be sure to get the correct version (for Android or iPhone). If that’s out of your price range, a handheld infrared point-and-shoot thermometer is also extremely useful for finding hotspots, even though it doesn’t have the digital display or data collection.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What is a good gift for a mechanical engineer?
Anything that's practical, functional or can help them show their love for engineering. Here are our favorites:
- The Pocket Engineer
- rOtring or Staedtler mechanical pencil
- Engineering word magnets
- Cloud-connected Rocketbook reusable graphing notebook
- Raspberry Pi for custom robotics and DIY projects
- Skunk Works - a fun read for any engineer
- FLIR thermal imaging camera
More gift collections for specific types of scientists and engineers:
We've further curated several collections of our own inventions depending on the type of scientist or engineer you're looking for. See these more niche collections below for more ideas!