Data logging update (TES January 2004)
Plug in a temperature sensor you bought a dozen years back, and global
warming or no, you can bet its still measuring celcius as good as ever. But as
PC systems change, and the equipment you plug sensors into improves, you can too
often find that upgrading means you have to start over and buy all your
sensors again. Forever this was going to be true. Technology is a sad euphemism
But this year starts with joy, especially for those who own sets of LogIT
sensors. The LogIT Datavision (Timstar £359) is a new
generation logger with the distinction of letting you plug in those old probes
to get measuring temperatures as before. Whats new is a data logger that
displays readings on a colour screen so you can distinguish lines on a graph.
Unusually the unit lets you do a surprising amount of analysis without going
near a PC, though with its USB link, you can connect to one easily. The Datavision measures rapidly too, meeting the benchmarks that physics teachers
set and yet still featuring the press-the-green-button easiness that biology
fieldwork needs too. As a progression from the black LogITs to its Datameter
1000 successor, and at just over £100 more, we have here sensing gone sensible.
Another source of well thought out equipment hails from PASCO who have a neat,
three-in-one (temperature, light, sound) sensor at a price to suit junior and
middle school years. It does the essential tasks, is sold with a USB adaptor
which will allow those starting out to add-on sensors from the huge PASPort
range. New this year is a unit that lets you record mass from a weighing balance
which will cheer up a good few chemistry experiments. In everyday reliability,
which continues to be data loggings downfall, this range leads the way with
plug in and go ease.
A trend to note is that many sensor systems now work with handheld computers.
With the power of these devices encroaching on old desktop machines, even data
analysis is possible on these very portable units. Long established is Texas
Instruments for their calculator based kit, but now PASCO have PowerLink which
is a handy bridge between their PASSPort range and a Palm PC that sells for
under a £100. The software is very easy too.
From Matrix Multimedia comes the Flowlog data logger which will also talk to
Palm PCs as well as work with a PC. Intriguingly it sends data to the Palm PC
using an infra-red link - and has an identifier to allow you to use lots of them
simultaneously in a class.
Another unit, the Trilog from Economatics acts as a tidy base to hold the Palm
PC. Uniquely, as well as sensors it comes with a mini-video camera to record the
experiment. A starter kit (£436) includes the abundance of connectors to make it
While the Palm seems to be the portable computer of choice, Data Harvest have
the Easysense Flash logger (£125 CHECK) for those keen on Microsofts Pocket
PC. Unusually, the accompanying software is as well featured as you find on the
PC. And when we reviewed it last year, this tiny unit worked especially well
when plugged into space spacing laptops and the Tablet PCs. This year, the
Easysense Flash logger won a BETT Award.
Those whove invested heavily in the old Philip Harris ranges, and many schools
have, can give them a lease of life with the fast recording Logbook ML from
Sciencescope. The sensors work seamlessly alongside Sciencescopes own which
including an interesting infra red distance sensor which acts as an electronic
For the tightest budget, the SciSci data logger from Valiant Technology is
finally available at just under £100 for a versatile unit with a display screen.
An add-on multi-sensor (temperature, light, sound) joins the trend for
all-in-one sensors. Finally Instruments Direct have the vast Vernier range for
PC, Palm, and Texas Instruments calculators.
Primary schools will have an easier time because nearly all the makers, such as
PASCO and LogIT offer an affordable starter kit. Data Harvest will have a new
unit for the BETT Show while the Advisory Unit have what may be the first
portable weather logger. Called the Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker (from
£335) this is a self-contained unit able to measure pressure, humidity, altitude
wind speed and more on your treks up Snowdonia.
The BETT Show (London, annually January) is one of the biggest showcases of data
logging gear. Big and burgeoning, with lots of systems each going their own
sweet way with little commonality, the only respite comes from Logotrons Data
logging Insight software which works across many different systems. Look out
versions for primary and secondary schools, for PC and Mac and helping to
salvage yesterdays gear.
Roger Frost is a science and ICT consultant
Must see (2004)
LogIT Datavision from Timstar / Griffin Education
Palm PC data logging and electronic balance interface from PASCO
Flowlog low cost system from Matrix Multimedia