For this gadget-loving 45-year-old overgrown boy, a trip to Gadget Show Live was always going to be a sure-fire winner. But is it a suitable event to take kids to too?
For me, it was an easy decision. Isaac and Toby are eight and six but they are already fans of the TV show and they have inherited their father’s geek gene. I had decided against taking them in previous years as I wanted to wait until both boys could enjoy it fully and £20 per child is no small amount of money – and that’s before all the extras you inevitably end up paying on the day.
I think I made the right decision waiting. A year ago, there would have been many things that Toby would have been too small to try out – this year there were still a few, but not many.
So what is there for kids to do?
There are the obvious attractions such as the gaming zone, where kids can try out the latest console games. Although if your children are hardcore gamers, they’re probably better off attending one of the many dedicated gaming shows, which are considerably larger.
Then there are popular exhibitors such as the drone-maker Parrot, who put on formation flying shows and offer tempting show discounts for their products. There’s also a smattering of car manufacturers – if our boys ever appeared on Mastermind, their specialist subject would be Top Gear – including Tesla, who were offering test-drives of their Model S on the show floor.
Personal transportation robots – Segway-alikes and hoverboards – were on display on several stands, offering visitors the chance to try them out for themselves. Isaac proved to be a natural on Ninebot‘s Mini-Pro, as you can see from the video below,
Some highlights were obvious – piloting remote-controlled Land Rovers around an obstacle course and playing Sphero Golf (crazy golf with an iPad-controlled tennis-ball sized sphere), for instance.
Other highlights were less obvious. Toby took a shine to the various smartphone accessories on show on the Case Station stand, where he helped design a customisable iPhone case with an image of the Eiffel Tower that was printed and ready inside 20 minutes. Even now, four days later, he cites this as his favourite memory from the day. A happy accident, but an immensely satisfying one.
It’s not all fun and games, though. There was plenty of educational STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) content to stimulate young minds, including a set of exhibits from the Cambridge Science Centre which help bring science concepts to life in an interesting way.
The boys were also fascinated by the BBC micro:bit demos – less than palm-sized programmable mini-computers designed to teach young minds to code, just as the BBC Micro computer did for my generation.
Equally compelling were start-ups such as SAM Labs, who offer modular electronic kits that allow a variety of robots and devices to be created via drag-and-drop modules on a computer. It’s a remarkably simple idea, beautifully executed, that takes basic engineering principles I learned via Lego, Meccano and electrical circuitry kits and elevates them to a new level via the Internet of Things.
In short, there was more than enough to occupy the boys for the entire day and leave them excited and with a Christmas present wish-list a mile long. And that was without us even attending the hour-long live theatre show with the Gadget Show’s presenters.
So if you have budding gadget geeks or are keen to get your kids interacting with technology with more than an iPad screen or Xbox controller, Gadget Show Live is a great day out for kids of all ages and well worth considering for 2017.
Now if only I can justify buying that £700 drone for myself …
I received complimentary press passes for Gadget Show Live but all opinions are my own.
You can also read my ten top tips for a day out at Gadget Show Live.
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