11 Incredibly Useful Gifts for Engineers
Roopinder Tara posted on December 12, 2019 |
Here's what every engineer will appreciate for the holidays.

The following is a list of items our staff has purchased the last year and found the most useful. If there is an engineer in your life, I’m sure they will appreciate any of these as gifts for the holidays. The gifts may seem geeky, not exactly romantic or even in a holiday spirit. But trust us, engineers appreciate practicality over anything else. [Warning: One contributor for this article admitted he once bought his Mom a potato peeler for her birthday, Ed]

Apple Watch ($529 in aluminum, cellular, 44mm and warranty)

The Series 5 Apple Watch is the first to be useful all the time (get it?) because the display is always on. It goes into a dimmed state after a few seconds, but you can still make out the time without having to flick your wrist – an act which seems to signal that you have lost interest in the conversation. Out of dozens of selectable faces, the Infographic watch face is the most useful. You can pack it with up to 8 different apps, such as a calculator, timer, stop watch, digital time or different time zone. Text messages show up on the face and, though you cannot answer easily, you will have no excuse for not seeing “Can you pick up milk?” You can call from the Apple Watch à la Dick Tracy. The battery power is good for a whole day.

For the engineers who have Android phones, don’t worry. You can still be cool with the Apple Watch. However, all of its functions may not be usable and it is harder to set up without an iPhone.

August Smart Lock ($99 + $48 for keypad)

How annoying is it that we can get into our cars by simply approaching it but we have to fidget for our keys to get into our houses? You can install the August Smart Lock—it fits over your existing deadbolt—and it will open your door as you walk toward it. 75% of the time, anyway—it’s not perfect. Installation took about an hour including the time to download the app and give the kids their entry codes. A numeric keypad (extra) not only lets you in with your entry code, but a quick tap on its home key will lock the door behind you as you leave – which is its handiest and most reliable feature.

The Uni Jetstream Multicolor Pen ($10)

Jetstream 4 color pen available in red, blue, black but black goes with everything. (Picture courtesy of Amazon.)

The Jetstream is a quality writing instrument, unlike other multicolor pens that are all plastic. It has a hidden mechanical pencil and eraser your engineer will delight in finding! It’s perfect for taking notes in black or blue, marking up reports or articles in red, putting next actions in green. Buy several because once people see it, they want it.

The Perfectionists – How Precision Engineering Created the Modern World ($12)


Exquisitely told stories of precision and accuracy will give engineers a nice warm feeling of validation. Because as engineers know, it’s not about profit, deadlines, teamwork, marketing, social media, or whatever the latest business book is espousing, but about making something perfect. Several stories will make your engineer proud of his/her profession. Most notable is the chapter about Rolls-Royce and its founders. “Henry Royce was the man who made the cars, while Charles Rolls simply (and flamboyantly) sold them.” The cars were designed and manufactured with the goal of perfection, without regard to difficulty or cost. 

eBags Professional Slim Laptop Bag ($140)

Shown in gray so you can see the details, but black is our preferred color. (Picture courtesy of Amazon.)

Engineers will appreciate the form and function of a backpack that has cushioning for the laptop and some structure—not the sloppy, cinched-up sack look of most backpacks. We use the bottom compartment for the power supply and the single side pocket for a travel mouse. The front compartment with a 3-side zipper is super handy, letting you see right away your extra pens, business cards, etc.

BESTEK 1000 Watt Power Inverter  ($80)

You could buy a gas-powered generator for backup power for $800 and have the neighbors complain about the noise. Or alternatively, you can buy an inverter like this one for about $80 that can supply 110V AC, drawing power from the gas-powered, silent-running engine that is already sitting in your driveway. A thousand-watt unit like this will work fine off a small or medium size vehicle, but if you have a big SUV or truck, you can opt for a higher power unit.

Suaoki 60W Solar Charger ($160)

Unfold the multi-panel solar panel and get your devices charged when the power is out. The 60W unit is more than enough to charge your devices but it will take at least a day to charge a big battery (like the electric generator in this article).

Tile Pro ($100 for a 4-pack)

One more formula or design detail may displace another memory in your engineer, like where their keys, wallet or backback is. So you can avoid the once-a-day panic about where their phone is by double-tapping a Tile to find your phone, or in reverse, tap on a Tile app on your phone and the Tile device will let you know where it is with a merry tune. 

A Tile device makes for the best phone finder. (Picture courtesy of Amazon.)

PRYMAX Portable 300W Power Station ($202)

 (Picture courtesy of Amazon.)

You could have a hundred little batteries, each that can charge your device once or twice, or you could have one big one, like this portable 298Wh battery—powerful enough to charge your smart phone 40 times, laptop 7 or 8 times, even a TV or small fridge for 5 hours. It charges fully after a few hours of AC input and then is ready for your next power outage. The PryMAX has 3 USB outputs for your devices and 2 AC outlets for your small appliances.

Swiss Army Knife with USB Flash Drive ($65)

The modern digital Swiss Army knife has a 16GB flash drive. (Picture courtesy of Amazon.)

While your smartphone may be the one thing you can’t leave home without, there are still things an engineer misses from their early years. The smartphone cannot tighten a screw, cut stray threads off your shirt or even jot down a note. The once indispensable gadget was the Swiss Army knife, which makes a modern-day comeback with a 16GB flash drive, a ballpoint pen, scissors, and more. Buy several, for your engineer will surely be parted from it on their next flight by an ever-vigilant TSA personnel.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Android Smartphone with 5G ($799)

Samsung Galaxy 10+ Android Smartphone with 5G. ($1039 with 256 GB.)

Engineers love to pull out a pen or pencil and start sketching, much to the chagrin of restaurant owners who have to replace table cloths. At a bar, a cocktail napkin has often helped clarify a concept. But what if neither is available? Your engineer may be rendered mute—unless you get him/her the one smartphone that instantly becomes an electronic sketchpad simply by pulling out its stylus. The Note provides a stylus because fingers are just too imprecise. Perfect for their next big idea or an explanation of vortex shedding, stress concentrations and whatever else that needs illustration. 

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