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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

10 great gadgets and gizmos for the college dorm: 2012 edition



Summer break is over. It's time to get your college kids ready and get them settled into their dorm rooms. So, again, we take a look at some of the coolest gadgets and other stuff -- from room decor to noise-cancelling headphones --  for dorm-room survival.


Hang in there

A drab, plain-vanilla room can be a drag. If your dorm allows things to be pinned onto walls, you're in luck. Here's a new gadget that makes it easy to hang your photos, mirrors or accessories. InstaHang is a lightweight tool (made of plastic), much like a staple gun, that pops in tack-like pegs into the wall to hang things from. It punches the peg in at an upward angle, so things don't slide off when hooked. No more hammers or thumb tacks. Place the device flush against the wall, punch the knob and the peg goes into the wall easily. Make sure your punch is firm and strong, otherwise, the peg will go in only half way. A level and ruler are built in, and extra pegs, caps and hooks can be stored inside the device. Each peg can hold up to 10 pounds of weight. So hang some mirrors to make the room feel bigger, or wall-mount shelves for extra storage.

instahangangle.jpgBut Make sure you check the dorm rules first. Only a clean small hole is left when you pull out the peg with the built-in remover. When you're done for the year, get a little tubel of wall spackle at a home improvement store (for less than $5) and patch it up to leave the walls in good shape. $14.99 plus shipping at



No-puncture alternatives

Jazz up those bare beige walls even if you can't tack things up. Check out the WallPops Dry-Erase message boards and calendars. They are peel-and-stick sheets that can be placed (and repositioned) on the wall, and can be removed without damaging the wall, and with no sticky mess afterward. These come in several patterns and colors, and comes with a marker. Put the decals back on the original backing (make sure you hang onto them) so you can reuse them when you change rooms. $14.99 and up.

jaframes.jpgDo you want a photo gallery of your friends and family? WallPops has frame decals to showcase your images. For instance, the colorful enamel frames by Jonathan Adler come in different shapes and sizes. Place a photo in the opening, and pop the frame on the wall. Each kit is $42.99 for 12 pieces.


fridge.jpgCompact fridge

Biggest on many kids' wishlist is a compact refrigerator in their room so they can have easy access to sodas, energy drinks, and snacks for late-night study sessions. Black & Decker's 3.3-cubic-foot refrigerator has a built-in can dispenser, a veggie crisper, and can hold 2-liter bottles. It also has a separate freezer compartment with its own door for frozen pizzas, Hot Pockets and pints of Ben & Jerry ice-cream.

Walmart has a bundle package of this fridge, plus a 1.1-cubic-foot RCA 100-watt microwave for $159. 



lock.jpgGuard that pint

Speaking of ice-cream, you might want to guard that pint of Phish Food or Cherry Garcia if you have roommates. To ensure you have ice-cream when you need it (and not find the empty carton in the trash can), secure it with Ben & Jerry's Euphoria-Lock. It clamps down on the lid of the pint-size ice cream carton, and locks it with a combination lock. $6.64. Apparently, this is a very popular item, so it's out of stock now, but the site says they'll be back in stock in September.


hamper.jpgLaundry dilemma

Lugging laundry to the washing machines is a pain. To save your kids' backs, get them the Rising Roller wheeled hamper. The 23-inch high rolling hamper is made tough enough to withstand bumps going up and down the stairs, but is lightweight and collapsible. It has large pockets for holding detergents, fabric softener sheets, etc, and comes in blue or khaki green. $34.99 at







showercaddy.jpgTrek to the shower

If your dorm has a shower down the hall, a caddy can make it easier to carry all the supplies. The Dorm Shower Caddy is made of waterproof mesh, so there's not standing water, and dries quickly and is mildew resistant. The handle is long enough to hang on the shower knob. $15.97 at



mdr-nc200d.jpgNoise-cancelling headphones

Let's face it. Not everyone is considerate of others trying to study for an exam or write a research paper. To tune them out, noise-cancelling headphones are a must. There's a wide price range for headphones, but you get what you pay for in this category.

Sony's MDR-NC200D is an over-the-head style with soft cushions for the ears. It can block out up to 98.2 percent of ambient noise. It also can analyze the noise, and automatically pick one of three settings: airplane, train/bus or office. You can get up to 22 hours of use on one AAA battery. $199 at


 glydegear.jpgGetting around campus

Sure, walking is great, but if you have to get across campus in a short time, you need some wheels -- and a better schedule. A bicycle takes up too much space, then you need time to lock it up. A scooter is smaller, but that's an extra thing you have to lug around.

Along comes Glyde Gear Fly, which is a backpack with a built-in foldout scooter that can handle up to 200 pounds -- many scooters can't handle this much weight. If you'd rather walk, it's also a rolling bag with an extendable handle.

The backpack has padded straps, a large main compartment, utlity pocket with an organizer, and a water bottle holder. It's 16.7 inches high by 13 inches wide by 8.5 inches deep and weights 12 ounces. The scooter is made of frame glass reinforced nylon and the wheels are plyurethane with ball bearings. $89 at




Get to class on time

Do you have a tendency to hit the snooze button too often? If you frequently oversleep in the morning, you'll need a reliable alarm clock. The Clocky mobile alarm clock gives you one shot at the snooze button. After up to 9 minutes of extra sleep, it will jump off the nightstand and roll in circles on the floor while sending out loud 80 decibel alarm beeps and flashes. You'll have to get out of bed to catch the clock to turn it off.
$49.99 at


 Protected power source

squid.jpgLastly, there's probably not enough power outlets to feed the gadgets you bring into the dorm. You also want to protect your electronic devices from power surges. The PowerSquid Surge Protector (Calamari edition) has six flexible grounded outlets, two of which glow in the dark, so you can find them easier. The wall-outlet plug has a flat profile that won't get in the way, with a reach of 6 feet from the source. The Squid comes with a lifetime warranty, and a $75,000 equipment insurance. $59.95 at



[Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 1:25pm]


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