What the Tech? Back to School Gadgets

My daughter is off to college this week and while she’s making a long list of things she needs (or wants) for her apartment, I thought I should look at some gadgets that parents need for a little peace of mind.

If your child or student doesn’t know much about car maintenance, or even if they do, an on-board diagnostic tool will send mom or dad information about how their car is performing and why a check-engine light turns on.

There are several scanners and code readers available but I prefer one that plugs into the OBD2 port and can stay plugged in at all times. The FIXD code reader is one of the more popular models and it will read and diagnose the light on multiple family vehicles.

It connects to an app which mom or dad can have on their phone. If something goes wrong with the car or if it’s time for an oil-change, the app sends a notification.

These tools can pay for themselves with just one clearing of a check-engine light.

The idea of my daughter driving back and forth to school is a bit unnerving and I wonder what she’d do if her car battery dies in the middle of nowhere or even at a convenience store. She can keep jumper cables in the trunk but she’ll still have to flag down a stranger asking for help.

So I picked up a portable battery jumpstarter. These devices are about the size of a smartphone and will keep a charge for months. If there’s a dead battery, just attach the clips the same as you would do with a pair of cables, and turn the key. They’ll also charge a phone with the USB ports.

Not all students will need to lock something up for protection but a combination or padlock might come in handy for gym lockers or valuables in their apartment. The Tapplock+ lock uses a fingerprint to unlock.

Simply use the free app with the lock and set up your fingerprint. When it’s time to unlock it, just place your finger on the face of the Tapplock and it releases the lock.

Students can use their smartphones for a flashlight but I strongly recommend everyone have a real flashlight for walks across campus or just to keep in the glovebox. Anker’s Bolder flashlight is rechargeable so the batteries are always fresh (if they remember to charge it from time to time). It’s the brightest flashlight I’ve ever used and it has emergency flashers too.

The Bolder flashlight is small enough to toss in a backpack or a purse or even a jacket pocket. These are not the type of gadgets students will think about before leaving for school but they can give mom and dad a little peace of mind.

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