Engineers are notoriously difficult to find gifts for. They tend to want things that are practical, functional and unique. Being an engineer myself, I wanted to assemble what I think are the best gifts for engineers and 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 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!
1. The Pocket Engineer Wallet Ruler and Unit Conversion Reference
A perfect 5-star rating on Amazon that we love to brag about! It's the most practical and unique pocket tool for any student or professional in engineering. It’s the size of a typical credit card and packed with functionality and information that an 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.
2. rOtring or Staedtler Mechanical Pencil
Mechanical pencils are considered the #1 daily essential for most 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 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. STEM-themed stickers for laptops, thermoses or notebooks
Stickers help people silently express themselves wherever they go. They’ve become so popular with the younger generations because each one represents a little piece of who that person is or wants to be and can be communicated instantly even for the most introverted engineer. We have a growing collection of STEM-themed stickers that would be much-appreciated by any passionate engineer, including our newest "Engineering is for Everyone" sticker.
Some of the stickers also include a small donation to a volunteer or non-profit group that is doing valuable progressive work in the science community. These stickers are waterproof vinyl, can be removed without leaving residue and are perfect for a laptop, a thermos, a notebook, car bumper or any other solid surface you could imagine.
4. 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 fun engineering-themed gift for students for a dorm, lab or office that lets them express their technical side but isn't work-oriented.
5. Chemical-resistant and solvent-proof pens for field notebooks
Engineers’ field notebooks are worth their weight in gold. Unfortunately most ink won’t hold up to a sudden downpour or a solvent spill. A years’ worth of notes can easily be washed away. Many professional engineers are now turning to chemically stable, waterproof and fade-resistant pens to record their observations with confidence.
Fortunately, these Japanese-crafted Pigma Micron pens by Sakura contain the best ink on the market with an assortment of line sizes and colors to allow for flexibility in taking notes and illustrating observations in the engineers’ field notebook. The pens are touted by professionals around the world for their “archival” ink that is trusted by museum curators, artists, accountants and planner hobbyists. It dries quickly and won’t bleed through thin paper.
Any engineer who does hands-on work would love to have this toolset to take their record-keeping to a professional level. You can find a 12-pack of assorted colors on Amazon for around $23.
6. Cognitive Surplus Engineering Notebook
This engineering-themed hardcover notebook is an excellent gift that they can use daily at work or at school. The hardcover engineering design adds some subtle style to their normally utilitarian work gear. The hardcover is also waterproof so no worries about spilling coffee all over it! Did we mention that it is made from 100% recycled material?
Cognitive Surplus is a favorite company of the STEM community creating beautifully designed stationary and accessories. You can check them out on Amazon here.
7. 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!).
8. Best books for 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.
She Engineers: Outsmart Bias, Unlock your Potential, and Create the Engineering Career of your Dreams by Stephanie Slocum
A perfect gift for a female engineer nearing graduation, this book helps to address a major issue not often discussed in school: the “boys” culture of engineering. The author has been an engineer in industry for over 15 years and gives practical strategies in an easy-to-read conversational tone to help any female engineer navigate the male-dominated workplace. It’s well-structured and filled with immediately applicable advice not only on excelling in your career but keeping work-life balance while you do it.
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.
This book is 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.
9. 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.
10. Engineer’s Black Book
If you’re looking for a useful and practical gift for a professional engineer that they can use at work, then this engineer’s black book is the one you’re looking for. This ultimate reference handbook is packed with up-to-date, useful, practical and hard to find engineering information. Within the book lies a ton of data sheets, formulas, reference tables, and charts. It’s also written in both English and metric measurements so it’ll save them lots of time on manual conversions.
Check the price on Amazon.
11. Engineer Life: A Snarky, Relatable & Humorous Adult Coloring Book For Engineers
Let them take a break from work and enjoy this fun and unique gift that’s perfect for an engineer with an artistic side. This adult coloring book has tons of hilarious engineering puns and artwork that will surely bring out the creativeness and inner child in any engineer.
Check the price on Amazon.
12. 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. Engineers are the best “makers” out there and often enjoy building and creating unique custom gadgets that the Raspberry Pi enables.
Most 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.
13. FLIR thermal imaging camera for smartphones
If you have the budget, this FLIR thermal imaging camera is an amazing tool that any mechanical, electrical or civil 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 the best gift for an engineer?
Anything that's practical, functional or can help them show their love for engineering. Here are our favorites:
- The Pocket Engineer - Credit card-sized engineering ruler and reference
- Funny Engineering word magnets
- Engineering-themed stickers
- Cloud-connected Rocketbook reusable graphing notebook
- Cognitive Surplus Engineering Notebook
- Skunk Works - a fun read for any engineer
- She Engineers: Outsmart Bias, Unlock your Potential, and Create the Engineering Career of your Dreams by Stephanie Slocum
- Engineer Life: A Snarky, Relatable & Humorous Adult Coloring Book For Engineers
- Raspberry Pi for custom robotics and DIY projects
- 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!