I'm an engineer, and I found all of these items to be humorous or useful—sometimes both!
Gift Guide: What Should I Get for a Student or Graduate?
I'm a former-student-current-graduate who survived the harrowing journey that is studying mechanical engineering in college. When it comes to buying gifts for engineering students or graduates, most people go for either lame t-shirts or boring machinery books or guides. C'mon, people!
We love clothes, and we love practical experiments, but not all the time—and we don't always want something with gears on it. If t-shirts and books are the last-minute gifts you feel you must resort to, then we'd like to get a really cool one.
This article basically reflects my wish list. I studied mechanical engineering in college, and these gift suggestions come from the heart. Don't get me wrong—something expensive and generic like an iPad is surely an awesome gift, but at what cost? You can give a much more personal gift by putting a little thought in and considering what the person you're shopping for really likes.
Now, let's get into some specific recommendations. Below, you will find gifts that are unique, funny, technical, geeky, and cool. A few must-read books and some miscellaneous items are also included.
The 7 Best Gifts for Engineers
- Unique Math Clock
- Mechanical Pencil
- Vernier Caliper
- Drones and Quadcopters
- Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things
- Gift Card
- An Amazon Prime or Prime Student Membership
1. Unique Math Clock
When I first saw this clock, I knew that very instant that I had to buy it. And with such a good name (the Sheldon Cooper Clock), I felt the math nerd inside me getting really excited.
It's been hanging on my bedroom wall for almost five years now, and apart from a few judgy, geek-shaming looks from some of my cousins, it has received ultra-great reviews from my peers and friends.
2. Mechanical Pencil
Believe me, a mechanical pencil is a very thoughtful gift for an engineer. I started using one my very first semester and I never stopped—even after graduating. I will probably use mechanical pencils for the rest of my life. Not a day goes by that I don't carry one on me at all times.
Tip: Choose 0.5 mm size. This is the standard size for many engineering drawings.
Other Useful Drawing Supplies and Stationary for Engineers
- A3 papers
- French curve
- Other supplies
3. Vernier Caliper
A vernier caliper (or scale) is an instrument that is used to make accurate unaided measurements. For a mechanical engineering major, it is one of the most important devices to have because there will be at least one occasion each a day where such a measurement is necessary for fieldwork.
I recommend this digital vernier caliper. Whether for school projects, office tasks, or even tinkering around at home, a vernier caliper is a mechanical engineer's best friend. If your recipient already has a vernier caliper, a micrometer is a useful alternative.
4. Drone or Quadcopter
The use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles has increased tremendously in recent years. Since engineering students usually learn to build these flying "robots" in their first few semesters, most are quite fascinated by them. Apart from surveillance and recreational purposes like travel logs, documentaries, and drone selfies, quadcopters are used in several fields for . . .
- gathering bridge and structural surveillance images,
- transporting supplies,
- testing aircrafts,
You can rest assured that a small quadcopter is a gift that will never fail to impress a mechanical engineer.
5. Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things
Let's face it—parents don't consider their children engineers unless they repair some of the broken stuff at home. One of my biggest regrets from my early college days is not reading the book Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things sooner. It's a practical and easy-to-use guide that helps readers transform everyday common objects into useful tools and solutions to everyday problems, and it will help bring out your recipient's creative side—a very useful trait for a mechanical engineer.
The book provides a foundation for brainstorming creative ways to use ordinary things to provide a meaningful output. These quick and convenient outcomes help build an engineering mindset, which can serve as a prototype for something larger and more valuable later on. Creativity and the ability to think outside the box are some of the greatest qualities an engineer at any stage of their career can have.
Cy Tymony's eclectic volume has sold millions of copies and become the go-to handbooks for everyday makers, fixers, and engineers. The first installment is followed by two others: Sneakier Uses for Everyday Things and Sneakiest Uses for Everyday Things.
Other Good Books for Engineers
- To Engineer Is Human
- The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book
- The Making of an Expert Engineer
- How To Win Friends and Influence People
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
6. Gift Card
What can you buy with a gift card? A Netflix subscription, snacks, coffee, more snacks, college supplies, (audio) books, and anything else you can think of. The beauty of a gift card is that the recipient has to spend it. They can't be responsible and save the balance—they have to indulge.
A gift card of any kind will undoubtedly be useful for a student to buy whatever they want, be it their favorite chips or random, cool, geeky stuff. Best of all, you won't have to fret over whether they like your present or not.
7. Amazon Prime or Prime Student Membership
As a student, I always struggled to buy supplies and other necessities. The demands of my courses did not leave me enough time to get a well-paying job, and the library job I had on campus was not enough. I also never expected to get any unique engineering gifts from my family since they didn't have the opportunity to read this article. Apart from a gift card, a shopping discount membership like Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Student, or a Costco membership is one of the best gifts a penny-pinching student can receive.
Hot or Not?
"Sneaky Uses of Everyday Things"
"How to Become a Mechanical Engineer"
Micrometer, vernier caliper
Shirt that reads "I'm a ME. What's your superpower?"
Shirt that reads "Real Women Marry Engineers" (eww!)
© 2013 Surem Khulkar
What gift did you buy for the engineering student in your life?
cde on May 26, 2018:
classic non-digital calipers are so much cooler and ipad advice is utterly off! without mentioning kuru toga even...
Mike Bolger from New York, NY on November 23, 2017:
As a professional engineer myself I believe that mechanical pencil and vernier caliper are actually a simple but very cool idea as a gift.
tanjilovi from Bangladesh on December 30, 2016:
What about some cool tools like multi point sockets and screw drivers ???