Data logging update (TES January 2005)
There was a time when the data logger makers made much the same thing and we
learned easily how to connect them to a PC. But this year innovation is rife
–you will find kit that connects in all sorts of ways even wirelessly. If it is
time to forget what you know, a wander round BETT 2005 merits an eye for what is
reliable and what meets a need.
Must see - (hot list - 2005)
Xplorer GLX – PASCO
Easy Sense Link and Easy Sense Q - Data Harvest
LogIT DataVision – Timstar; Griffin Education
We start with Xplorer GLX (from PASCO, NO PRICE RELEASED)
the most functional ‘data logger’ you can find and on the physics scale of
things, measures fast. For example, it can handle sound waves and velocity
changes and it does that on location – at a theme park or sports track. This is
unusual power to be carrying round even though it’s the shape of a large
calculator. And although it’s a few times thicker than one it does accommodate
PASCO sensors old or new, which hints of an engineering marvel. Its crisp
display screen not only displays graphs it can calculate their rate of change
and more as you would on a PC. You access these features using a keypad but plug
in a regular USB mouse and hey, you’re flying without a laptop. Plug in a
standard keyboard – an apt fold up type is available – and students can type up
reports or use worksheets you’ve stored inside it. There’s a microphone for
sound input and voice notes, but that’s just a clue to its capabilities.
In full contrast the Vernier Go! Temp (£41) is the simplest unit you can find as it measures temperature and just
that. Plugged into a USB socket it is ready to go and good value. Instead you
can combine any Vernier system sensor with the Go!Link (£63) to make it into a
plug and play device that works with the Logger Lite software supplied. The
software is incredibly easy, remarkably capable and neither scares or
UK equipment makers are also offering USB connectors to
connect existing sensors to the PC and this brings fast recording and automatic
sensor identification. With power now in the plug all this translates into
reliability, although an occasional need for software drivers will spoil it.
Data Harvest has ‘EasySense Link’ (£99) a very simple USB box to measure using
three of their sensors at once. This USB-powered unit is robust, inexpensive and
incredibly fast (40,000 per second) that it records a magnet falling through a
coil. If you rarely work away from a PC, you can put this high on your list.
Meanwhile, the affordable eXperiment (£69 from Timstar/Griffin) is for the LogIT system.
Though it handles a single sensor you can use a few at once. eXperiment is sold
with a pack of instructions on video and this devilishly simple unit has been
shortlisted for a BETT award. A new LogIT data logger is also available (see
review page …).
Those that care not for wires will find several kits using
Bluetooth, the technology that lets mobile phones exchange data or use headsets.
Sciencescope have Logbook WL (£250) that offers a choice of cable or Bluertooth
wireless to connect to the PC, and there’s also a Logbook UL (£200) which
connects via USB only. Sciencescope also have new software called Datadisc Pt
(£235) and a adaptor to make use of an Ohaus balance (£150). Economatics have
‘Trilink’ (price not released) which as well as working over wires to a PC or a
handheld Palm, can use a wireless link. Interestingly, the ‘Trilink’ Bluetooth
allows several PC’s to record results from an experiment within range. Data
Harvest reportedly also has a Bluetooth-based unit.
For out-of-doors work, Suna have Envirolab PX18 (No price
yet), an inexpensive weatherproof unit that you could leave in a pond. It will
happily store the data till you ‘upload’ it to the PC although it can send its
data over a network ethernet cable. It’s early days but there’s even a way to
power the logger using the one cable. If you’re looking for a 24/7 system, as
out-of-doors centres often are, this is worth keeping an eye on. Those looking
for kit to work with PC’s, the Palm PDA and Dana, the keyboard based Palm should
head to Matrix Multimedia. Here is Flowlog (£250) which distinguishes itself
with its low cost and great range of sensors. The result is very portable and
uses a wireless infra red connection which is surprisingly reliable.
Primary schools will find kit for younger users from all
the equipment suppliers. Newest this year is Data Harvest Easy Sense Q (£169)
which comes ready to run with two temperature sensors and other sensors
built-in. With a 4-line screen, easy software and batteries recharged via the PC
it should rank high in your choices as it has been short listed for a BETT
award. Primary schools keen on control and robotics will as ever find attractive
offerings in the Lego system while BETT newcomers Logiblocks have a very cool
looking robot that is just too good to be a toy.
Finally, enjoy browsing what is new and note that new gear
may take months before it does finally deliver. There’s plenty to fulfil
classroom needs here and then some.
- Vernier: Instruments Direct Services (IDS);
www.inds.co.uk Tel 01283 214100
- Data Harvest Tel: 01525 373666 www.data-harvest.co.uk
- Deltronics, Tel: 01269 843728 www.deltronics.co.uk
- Flowlog: Matrix Multimedia Tel: 0870 700 1831
- IT in Science & Roger Frost Tel: 0845 430 0176
- Kestrel: The Advisory Unit Tel: 01707 266714 http://www.advisory-unit.org.uk
- Logbook: ScienceScope Tel: 0870 2256175
- PASCO Scientific www.pasco.com
- Philip Harris Education Tel: 01530 418000
- Pico Technology Tel: 01480 396 395 www.picotech.com
- SenSci: Valiant Technology 020 8673 2233
- Trilink - Economatics Education Ltd,
www.economatics.co.uk/education Tel 0114 281 3344
- Science4Schools 020 8560 5678
- Suna. www.suna.co.uk Tel 020 8390 8811
Roger Frost is a science and ICT consultant