Last week I looked at the differences between laptops and desktops for different students, as well as additional back-to-school technologies like tablets and LiveScribe pens. This week I thought I'd write about all the cool accessories I wish I had when I was a student.
Transportation — When I was in University I rode my bike everywhere: to school, to rugby practice, to the bar, to the grocery store and ultimately back to the bar. I was "that guy" with the bike helmet and seat hanging from my pack, even on snowy days or when the temperature dropped below minus-20 with the aid of ski goggles, bike "tire chains," and a neoprene facemask.
Most Whistler kids already have a bike or two lying around, but a decent commuter bike is should have thin tires, a big "big ring," panniers for school books and beer/groceries; fenders, a mirror for traffic, a bell for pedestrians and a light for riding at night. A few of our local bike shops will be able to help and if not then MEC.com is a good place to start.
A bike isn't a gadget though, so in the spirit of the column I'd also recommend a Garmin Edge bike computer so your student can track his or her total time on the bike. Staying fit is tough for full-time students, and counting kilometres and calories is a good way to stay healthy.
Another gadget that might be kind of fun is a Monkeylectric wheel light set (www.monkeylectric.com) which turns your bike wheels into a moving light show — for safety of course.
If you have a slightly bigger budget and exercise isn't an issue, there are a lot of different electric bike options available that provide some electrical assistance in pedaling and turn long commutes into short ones. Prices start at around $1,200 and go way up from there.
Music — Every phone doubles as a music player these days but earbuds aren't the most social way to share it. I'd recommend every student consider getting some kind of portable Bluetooth speaker they can bring anywhere. The Cambridge Soundsystems "Oontz" — say it a few times thinking about electronic music — is a bargain at around $50, while the more expensive Jawbone Jambox is kind of the gold standard for sound and battery life at $150 and up.
To truly geek out, portable HD resolution mini portable projectors are available starting at around $100, turning any white wall into a movie theatre. Pair it up with a Bluetooth speaker and you've got a home theatre on the go.
It's also worth considering investing in some headphones. There aren't too many quiet places on campus, but a good pair of headphones can block out the world for someone who works better listening to music. Research also shows that ambient white noise (or pink noise or natural sounds, or whatever floats your boat) can make your brain more productive. You can get some decent on-ear or over-ear buckets for $99, just be sure to make sure they'll work with your devices.