The Holiday Gift Guide for Engineers

From stocking stuffers to gadgets and even education products, we've compiled our 15 favorite gift ideas for the engineers in your life at any age.
  • Holiday shopping season is upon us and engineers can be the hardest group to shop for. Maybe you're shopping for the engineer who has everything, or maybe you're looking to encourage a budding young engineer in your life.

    Don't worry, we're here to help ease your holiday stress! We've compiled a list of our favorite products – from stocking stuffers to gadgets and even educational goodies – that should be on any engineer's wish list this holiday season.

    Click through the slideshow above to see our picks for the best holiday gifts for the engineer in your life.

  • 3D Printer

    3D Printers have never been cheaper and if you know someone who has been waiting to pull the trigger on buying one for his DIY projects now is the time.

    Home Depot now offers several 3D printers and filaments including the popular MakerBot Replicator line. There are also a number of kits available online for anyone looking to put their own 3D printer together.

    The Startt 3D Printer kit (shown), for example, is an entry-level 3D printer that retails for $99 US and can be assembled in about five hours.

    [Image source: Startt]

  • Cozmo

    Don't let the small size fool you. There's a lot going on under the hood of Anki's smartphone-controlled robot, Cozmo.

    Designed by a team of engineers, as well as animators, Cozmo interacts and plays games with users and its environment in ways that feel strikingly realistic. From its degree of motor control to its facial and object recognition ability there's enough to get engineers of all ages curious to experiment with what they can make the robot do.

    There's a simple coding app for teaching basic coding concepts and getting Cozmo to perform various tasks. But for more serious users, Cozmo offers a Python-based software development kit (SDK) that lets you really dig into Cozmo's deeper functions.

    [Image source: Anki Robotics]

  • Development Board

    Every engineer needs a development board in their home. Nowadays development boards can be had for as affordable as the $9 CHIP board. Whether you know someone who loves DIY projects or is actively trying to invent the next great innovation there's a development board out there for them.

    Do they consider themselves a maker? You may want to look into a Raspberry Pi (shown) or Arduino starter kit. For those looking for specific projects companies like Adafruit offer a variety of project-specific boards. Engineers more into IoT development might enjoy the Minnowboard.

    And if you know more engineers looking to add some serious horsepower to their next robotics, computer vision, or even artificial intelligence project you can spring for something high-end like the Nvidia Jetson TX2 board.

    [Image source: Raspberry Pi Foundation]

  • Dilbert

    You may not fully understand the engineer in your life – but Dilbert does.

    Scott Adams' long-running comic strip has been going strong for decades now lampooning office culture the entire way. The latest collected edition, Dilbert Gets Re-accommodated was just released in November and would make a great addition to the library of anyone who understands algorithms, particle accelerators, and the joys of software vendor relations.

    [Image source: Amazon]

  • DJI Spark Drone

    The Spark drone from DJI is a miniature, entry-level drone perfect for anyone who wants to add some flair to home movies or just play around. The Spark's 12-megapixel 3D sensing camera is capable of facial and movement recognition.

    Using this technology means the drone can navigate to designated points, track and follow targets, and even be taught to recognize hand gestures to perform certain functions. Want the drone to take a selfie of you? Make a frame with your fingers.

    The basic model of Spark retails for $499 but the company also offers additional battery packs and a remote for additional prices.

    [Image source: DJI]

  • Embedded Software Training in a Box

    Hardcore engineers need hardcore gifts. The Embedded Software Training in a Box courses offered by Barr Group may be just the thing for a busy systems engineer.

    The course comes with a 32-bit ARM Cortex M7-based development board and focuses on teaching engineers how to write devices drivers, real-time operating system (RTOS) development, and identifying, reducing, and fixing firmware bugs, among other skills.

    Barr Group is currently offering a $50 discount on its training code through December 31, 2017, with the promo code DIY2017.

    [Image source: Reddit user opseclab]

  • iFixit Tool Kit

    Gadgets and devices are expensive enough without having to pay the money and time to get them repaired. Why not let the engineer in your life exercise their right to repair with a toolkit from popular teardown experts at iFixit?

    iFixit offers a variety of tool kits depending on your repair needs and dedication from a $15.99 Essential Electronics Repair kit (shown) all the way to a $199 Repair Business Tool kit for anyone looking to make a bit of money by starting their own repair shop.

    Hey, maybe the kit will inspire the next engineer like iFixit founder Kyle Wiens, who will be tearing down an iPhone X at ESC Silicon Valley next week during a live keynote?

    [Image source: iFixit]  

  • Kano DIY Computer Kit

    The Kano DIY Computer Kit is a great option for all ages looking to build their own computer and get into coding.

    The kit includes everything you need to build a small computer at home. It won't be powerful enough to run the latest and greatest virtual reality games and apps but there is enough going on under the hood to run a number of simpler apps and games (including Minecraft).

    Once assembled, the kit can also be used to teach coding and computer programming concepts. The basic kit retails for $99 and the $249 complete kit (shown) comes with a dedicated HD screen, microphone, and sound sensor for an expanded range of projects.

    And because the kit is based on a Raspberry Pi 3, we're willing to bet that enterprising engineers will find all sorts of new uses for it in their own DIY projects.

    [Image source: Kano]

  • Mr. Fusion Car Charger

    Unfortunately for Back to the Future fans, where we're going we still need roads. But that doesn't mean you can't pretend otherwise.

    We don't have cars that run on garbage (yet) and with a multitude of EVs just around the corner you can let your loved one re-live the bygone years of 2015 with a $23 car charger shaped like the Mr. Fusion reactor from Back to the Future Part 2.

    The charger plugs into your car's cigarette lighter and can charge up to two devices simultaneously via powered USB. Extra points if you can get them to install this in a DeLorean.

    [Image source: ThinkGeek]

  • Recoil Laser Tag Game

    Pokemon Go showed it is possible to actually use phones to get kids out of the house. Recoil steps up the action by turning laser tag into an augmented reality experience using your smartphone.

    Skyrocket, the company behind Recoil, bills game as a real-life version of a first-person shooter video game. Aside from a laser handgun and rifle, Recoil offers some additional bells and whistles for gamers such as grenades, supply drops, and even the ability to call in air strikes against your opponents.

    [Image source: SkyRocket]  

  • Rick and Morty Monopoly

    Why buy and trade properties in a fictional Atlantic City when you can do in the entire multiverse?

    The classic board game has gotten a sardonic and humorous new twist based on the hit TV show Rick and Morty. The Chance and Community Chest cards have been replaced with custom Get Schwifty! and Interdimensional Cable TV cards. And instead of Boardwalk and Park Place, you'll be playing for ownership of properties in the Cromulon Dimension, Gazorpazorp, and Planet Squanch.

    If the game shares the same sense of humor as the show, you'll likely be experiencing a bit of existential angst while riffing on classic science fiction tropes all for $39.99.

    [Image source: ThinkGeek]

  • Star Wars Workout Equipment

    Give your favorite engineer some extra incentive to live a healthy life in 2018. Fitness company Onnit has released a line of Star Wars-themed weights and workout equipment that would be a great addition to any fan's home gym.

    For weight lifts the company offers a line of custom-sculpted iron kettlebells shaped like Storm Troopers, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader. The Vader kettlebell is, of course, the heaviest at 70 lbs. If cardio strength training is more your speed you can try the Death Star Slam ball. And for those looking for more flexibility and relaxation nothing says “chill out” better than a yoga mat in the form of Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

    [Image source: Onnit]

  • Upgraded Coffee

    Like so many other products coffee has gotten a major upgrade in the last few years as companies are looking for a better, healthier way to give everyone their daily caffeine fix. There are lots of options but right now Bulletproof Coffee seems to be the front runner among the technology-minded set.

    Bulletproof Coffee claims to be free of the mold and toxins found in typical coffee. Go all the way and try mixing it with butter for the full Bulletproof experience. Depending on the flavor a Bulletproof Starter Kit will run about $30-$50.

    Less adventurous engineers might be interested in the brand of mushroom coffee offered by Four Sigmatic. Don't worry, the mushrooms aren't psychedelic. Four Sigmatic combines various mushrooms such as chaga, rishi, and lion's mane into its coffee blends, which makes it an immune system booster among other purported health benefits. A 10-pack of instant mushroom coffee mix goes for $14.99.

    [Image source: Bulletproof Coffee]

  • Women of NASA LEGOs

    LEGOs are always a tried and true holiday gift. This year you can give an adult an unexpected gift or even spark an interest in STEM in a budding young engineer with the new Women of NASA LEGO set.

    The set honors four female luminaries of space exploration: Nancy Grace Roman, the mother of the Hubble telescope; Margaret Hamilton, lead software developer for the Apollo space program; Sally Ride, the first woman in space; and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. T

    he set includes a minifigure for each woman and various buildable props including a posable Hubble telescope and a LEGO Challenger Space Shuttle with three removable rocket stages.

    [Image source: LEGO]

  • Women in Science Postcards

    We get it, you know a lot of engineers. You can knock a lot of names off your holiday list with these Women in Science postcards from author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky.

    Each of the postcards features illustration, facts, and a quote from a woman who has made a significant contribution to a field of science. Some of the expected names like Marie Curie are, of course, included, but there are plenty of unsung heroes for engineers of any age to learn more about such as Hypatia of Alexandria, one of the first women in recorded history to study and teach mathematics.

    [Image source: Amazon / Rachel Ignotofsky]

Are you hoping for an Amazon Echo this holiday season? Why hope when you can design Amazon’s Alexa technology into your devices. At ESC Silicon Valley Dec 5-7, 2017, Amazon will host 3 sessions, each one offering learning on the SDK (software development kit) for AVS (Alexa Voice Services). Click here to register for ESC and find more information on the Amazon Alexa sessions below.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News , covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics. 

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