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9 Best Holiday Gift Ideas for Engineers in 2020

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, 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

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. One of the best cheap gadget gifts that any engineer will geek out over. You can order directly through our site or on Amazon with the links below.

The Pocket Engineer at Genius Lab Gear

The Pocket Engineer from Amazon

 

2.    The best laser pointer and PowerPoint presenter on the planet

I’ve gone through a lot of shoddy laser pointers and slide advancers in my life. They are either glitchy, not user-friendly or just not powerful enough to see well in a large presentation room. Eventually I got fed up and spent several hours reading reviews and parsing through specs of every laser pointer on Amazon. I landed on this Dynofire green laser pointer with USB connectivity, plus volume controls and slide controls. It’s the highest-end version from Dynofire and it’s worth every penny, yet still much cheaper than some other options like Logitech (and more highly rated). I’ve used it for over a year now and am extremely happy with it. Here are the perks:

  • The green laser is the most powerful that can be legally sold in the USA (6-10x more powerful than the red version).
  • The USB connectivity works with many different computers and software
  • The volume controls help prevent embarrassing seconds of blasting video sound or scrambling to the PC to get the volume just right in those tricky embedded videos. It also has a play button for built-in videos.
  • The slide controls go forward and back plus include a button to blank the screen like a TED talk professional to bring the focus back to the speaker.
  • The USB rechargeable battery ensures you’ll never get caught out of juice.
  • The little notebook clip is a nice touch for securing it on your portfolio or your pocket.

The lucky wielder of such a tool can be sure command the presentation room and reduces the risk of awkward technical difficulties. Get the best one and it will last for many years.

dynofire green laser pointer

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.

 STEM themed stickers for laptops

4.    Fun 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.

 best pens for engineering field notes

6.    Enki Engineering spiral-bound engineering notebook

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.

Enki Engineering spiral bound engineer notebook

 

7.    Rocketbook One cloud-connected paper notebook

More for day-to-day note-taking and brainstorming than the project/homework-oriented Enki notebook above, the Rocketbook finally allows you to seamlessly integrate your hand-written notes with your digital life. Simply open their app to take a photo of each page 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 Google Docs, OneNote, Evernote, 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 One is the least expensive at around $12 and is a classic spiral notebook I personally use taking notes when on the move and even for brainstorming sessions. They also offer reusable versions to reduce paper waste for a little higher up-front cost.

Rocketbook One notebook for engineers

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.

Check the price on Amazon

 

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.

Check the price on Amazon

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.

Check the price on Amazon

 

More 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 in 2020.

9.    A thoughtful STEM gift box for scientists and engineers

Since we love the items in this list so much, we’ve created a few gift boxes with most of these items all in one. The best part is that each gift box actually costs less than one would pay to order each item individually (including non-Genius Lab Gear products)! We’ve taken advantage of bulk order discounts and free shipping thresholds to offer these invaluable tools to you at a lower price in one curated package. All gift boxes have free shipping in the USA!

The Delighted Genius Gift Box is our entry-level gift box that aims to put a smile on the face of the recipient by packaging our best-selling items with a pair of chemical and solvent-proof Sakura Gelly Roll pens and an enamel pin of your choice from Science on a Postcard. These are the items everyone posts on their social media about because they are so excited to receive them! It’s a fun gift set at an affordable price. Gift box packaging is optional via the drop-down menus.

 

The Unstoppable Genius Gift Box is hands-down the most meaningful gift in STEM that will resonate with anyone in research. It’s a collection of best-in-class tools and most-loved accessories for graduate students and STEM researchers. Included are items like our best-selling stickers that support several volunteer organizations along with productivity tools like the Rocketbook, the Thinkboard X, the Five Minute Journal and the best laser pointer on the market.

STEM gift box for engineers and scientists

 

The Prolific Genius Gift Box will help any academic researcher kickstart their writing process and help get their ideas out into the world. We’ve filled it with our favorite writing tools focused on a steady, iterative and structured writing process to turn pent-up writing anxiety into measured successes. It’s perfect as a self care package or as an elevated and thoughtful gift to a colleague with a looming deadline on their next proposal or journal submission.

 

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:

More gift collections for specific types of scientists:

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!

Gifts for Professors and Grad School PIs

Unique Gifts for Graduate and PhD Students

Gifts for Chemists and Chemistry Students

Gifts for Scientists and Engineers

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