The Gadget Show

Whether it’s the latest mobile phone or a vacuum cleaner, an electric drill or a bike, there was something for everyone at the Gadget Show Live. But how about a degree?

The University of Wolverhampton was one of a handful of higher education institutions to exhibit at the high profile event, and was inundated with visitors throughout the five-day exhibition.

Technology showcase

Designed to showcase new technological developments and the latest gadgets and gizmos on the market, the event is hugely popular with a range of visitors, from business leaders to families. Exhibitors included some of the biggest names in computer gaming and household devices, such as Sony, Dyson and Black and Decker. The School of Computing and Information Technology (SCIT) decided to have a stand at the event to launch two new ‘gadget’ degrees, and also to showcase the range of innovative and exciting work undertaken by students.

Sam Sutcliffe, Marketing Officer at SCIT, organised the University’s stand. She said: "We wanted to be at the Show to raise our profile and awareness of what we do at the University. As we are launching the BSc (Hons) Computer Systems Engineering and the BSc (Hons) Computer Systems Engineering (Networks) degrees in September, it seemed too big an opportunity to miss."

Gadget Catcher launch

The Show, held at the NEC in Birmingham this month, was also a perfect place to launch a new viral game designed by Games Society students. The Gadget Catcher game uses Flash and was inspired by the Show. Popular with young and old visitors to the University’s stand, the unique game challenged players to catch gadgets falling from a spaceship and bank them in a safe to collect points.

With support from McCann-Erickson design agency, second year BSc (Hons) Computer Science student Hiren Patel designed the game with fellow students Paul Hickman, Andy Hicks and Adam Kesterton.

Hiren said: "Working on the game has been an excellent opportunity, especially gaining first hand experience of working with a real design agency."

Andy added: "We wanted to create a fun game that people could play over and over again. We included a high scores table so people can link to Facebook and be competitive with each other. Now anyone can now play the game online."

Wolverhampton Infrared Touchscreen

Another popular exhibit was the interactive Wolverhampton Infrared Touchscreen. This is an example of a multi-touch interface, similar to one used in the film Minority Report. People could move images and figures around the large screen using specially developed remote controls featuring infra-red LEDs.

The screen itself does not include computerised technology, instead relying on a projector and a customised infra-red camera. The exhibit aimed to showcase some of the software and hardware skills future students can learn on the new ‘gadget’ degrees.

BSc (Hons) Computer Science student Sam Wilson is on a placement in SCIT and developed the screen. He said: "It is an innovative piece of technology, and not a lot of companies are using it. I hope to go into research when I finish my degree and doing the placement has been great opportunity to see what academia is really like."

His twin brother Ed Wilson also developed an exhibit for the Gadget Show Live 2010. With support from lecturer Chris Dennett, Ed designed the Wolverhampton Eye in The Sky; a spy camera attached to a motorised blimp. The wireless camera transmitted images to a PC, where they were converted to a standard digital format, enabling visitors to take home a souvenir of their day.

Ed overcame a number of challenges in developing the exhibit, including the restricted weight load required to enable the blimp to fly.

Ed, who is also on a placement year and hopes to join the RAF after graduating, said: "It gives a real application for the stuff we are learning on our modules. Appearing at the Show was a great experience."

Digital life

Lecturer Sarah Mount was also on hand to demonstrate a simulated environment in a large wooden crate, known as the Tangible Wolverhampton Animated Digital Life. The highlight of the simulation was that visitors could affect the environment which in turn changes the behaviour of the virtual inhabitants, either causing extinction or acting as a catalyst for their growth, reproduction and survival. Visitors to the stand could directly alter the environment by changing the amount of light, the temperature and causing earthquakes for the inhabitants of the anim

It is unusual as you interact with everyday objects around the table, such as hairdryers to create heat and an electric light to imitate the sun, to alter the environment," Sarah explains.

The next challenge...

The students developed the exhibits while continuing to study towards their degrees. Their hard work and dedication was worthwhile, with hundreds of people visiting the exhibition to try to gain the highest score on Gadget Catcher or to solve almost impossible jigsaw puzzles on the touchscreen.

As well as interacting with the various fun exhibits, visitors were able to find out more about the range of degree courses offered by the School of Computing and Information Technology at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Now the next challenge facing the University’s budding games developers and computer scientists is to decide what innovations and new technology to exhibit at next year’s show.

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