Aerospace and Aeronautical engineers are hard to find great gifts for. They lean toward gifts that are practical, functional and unique. Aerospace engineering was my original major until switching to aerospace materials, so I wanted to assemble what I think are the best gifts for aerospace engineers and aerospace 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 an aerospace 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 Aerospace and Aeronautical 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 aerospace engineering. It’s the size of a credit card and packed with functionality and information that an aerospace engineer will need on a daily basis both in school and on the job.
The laser-cut and laser-engraved stainless steel has a thick black enamel coating reminiscent of a stealth bomber to prevent scratching and stand up to years of abuse. One of the best low-cost gadget gifts that any aerospace 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 aerospace 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 aerospace 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 released 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 aerospace engineering gift (they don't need another mug!) 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 such a clever invention. 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. Rocket-shaped cocktail shaker
For the cocktail connoisseur, this rocket-shaped cocktail shaker is a subtle way to show off their love for aerospace. It's actually a similar shape to SpaceX's "Starship" rocket which is planned to be used to carry astronauts to Mars within the next decade. It's more elegant than mugs or t-shirts with bad engineering jokes, and will get many more compliments.
6. Best books for aerospace or aeronautical 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 engineering-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, the founder of SpaceX, 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 aerospace engineer or aspiring astronaut to reach further in their own work.
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich
The name "Skunk Works" will bring chills to any engineer interested in aerospace technology. It's the gold standard of American innovation. This book details 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 aerospace or aeronautical 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.
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
This book is an all-time classic for aerospace engineers. It recalls true stories of the first American astronauts from being post-war test pilots, through the failures of the Mercury program into the world-changing successes of the Apollo missions. You won't believe some of it, but it's true. The perfect book for inspiring the next generation of aerospace engineering students or reliving the golden age of rocketry for a seasoned professional.
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.
Gifts for Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineers under $150
7. Microsoft Flight Simulator
This game is the gold standard for anyone who nerds out about aviation. It's been around for over a decade. This newest version was released in 2020 and lets you fly dozens of real aircraft in the most realistic way possible. You can even fly around recreations of real terrain around the world and land at real airports. Great for anyone who wants to get a pilot's license in the future. The lower reviews on Amazon are mostly for technical issues. Just make sure they have a good computer and it shouldn't be a problem.
If you're really going all-out, get them the realistic flight control console for the full experience ($350+).
8. NASA space technology patent printsIf their room needs a little decoration (most engineers struggle with this) then consider getting them some technical but beautiful drawings of the patents NASA has received for their space technologies. These are actually only $20, but if you get them framed the total cost will fall into this category.
Ultimate gift for Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineers (under $300)
9. Working model Sterling engine with propeller
A Stirling engine is a heat engine that is operated by the cyclic compression and expansion of gas at different temperatures, resulting in a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. It's kind of a niche technology with a cult following among gearheads and aerospace buffs. They never found widespread usage in aviation although NASA and others have tried various approaches.
This precision-crafted engine uses ethanol as fuel and cycles the cylinders to run the airplane propeller at high speeds. Add some fuel, give the propeller a flick, and they'll have a working aircraft engine on their desk!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What do you need for an aerospace engineer for Christmas?
Anything that's practical, functional or can help them show their love for aerospace engineering. Here are our favorites:
- The Pocket Engineer
- rOtring or Staedtler mechanical pencil
- Engineering word magnets
- Cloud-connected Rocketbook reusable graphing notebook
- Rocket-shaped cocktail shaker
- Skunk Works - a fun read for any engineer
- Sterling model engine with propeller
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!