Science - hardware BETT 2006 TES

what’s hot in Equipment for measuring, microscoping and making science good: what to look out for in 2006.

 

Must see:

GLX – data analysis and collection – from PASCO

Venier Logger Pro – straightforward but powerful software – from Instruments Direct

LogIT Explorer – gain without pain data logger for primary schools – from Timstar / Griffin

 

Data loggers that work ought not to headline news but we live in unusual times. If something is unplugged, and that’s easily done, you would guess the software starts to cry and your experiment goes belly-up. But in unusual times your out-of-lab experience can be wonderfully different and several brands so distinguish themselves.

The ‘Vernier Go!’ system is one of the robust systems. It can measure pretty much anything. New this year is Go! Motion (£106 Instruments Direct) which plots distance-time graphs and you walk them. If ever you need equipment to plug and go, this occasionally-used sensor is one for that. Teamed with the supplied software it does the job but with Logger Pro 3, you have a deceptively simple screen to handle all kinds of meter display, graph analysis and even video analysis of a web cam movie.

As the most feature-full logger on the horizon, glory is due to Xplorer GLX (PASCO £299). It’s both a good value interface for multiple sensors, and it can stand alone to measure on the bench. It can display meters, tables and graphs, plus it can compute a graph slope or area, plot a derivative and, my goodness gracious, print this over a USB connection – indeed it’s much like the PC but without forsaking a bench or finding space for a steel fortress. A little practice understands its buttons or you can use a mouse to control the screen, plug in a keyboard and type a worksheet or plug in a USB stick to copy files. For more ground breaking see the PASCO Chemistry Sensor (£166) which combines measuring pH, temperature and gas pressure in a handy unit.

If you’re a geographer with a want to measure the weather, the device that excels for convenience is the Kestrel 4000 Weather Tracker (from The Advisory Unit, £335). It’s a phone-like handset which is now bundled with AEGIS 3 software to plot its raw microclimate data on a map.

Manufacturers PASCO, Vernier and Data Harvest all gain nominations for the BETT 2006 Awards. In Data Harvest’s case it’s for the portable ‘Flash logger’ that slots into a Pocket Pc (£125 + a Pocket PC). This convenient, attractive solution moves easily from lab to lab and the software is well featured for anything this tiny. For work on forces, where rickety trolleys disobey the laws of motion, there’s the solidly made Dynamics System – another all-in solution (around £150) where you can roll a vehicle, measure its speed with sensors and gain precision. Data Harvest has an alternative energy set (£326) and to ensure accurate data capture when using light gates, motion sensors and force sensors. EasySense Q Advanced is this model.

Following a fashion started last year, several outlets now offer both wired and Bluetooth wireless ways to connect sensors and computers. Bluetooth offers a suitable way to link with tiny Palm or Pocket PC’s that need with all sorts of cable. You’ll find kits at BETT including the multitalented Fourier TriLink(from Economatics at £239). There’s also a five sensor, wired starter system for PCs that measures, records video and allows motion analysis(£389). Matrix Multimedia have “Flowlog”, a low-cost data logging unit that can control devices. It connects to Palm devices or PCs, and its in-built analogue and digital scopes suit it well for Engineering Science.

Just as projectors made using software useful, the future of class demonstrations takes shape as a ‘visual presenter’ or document camera. The Avermedia 130i for example is a camera with a solid base with a flexible gooseneck which teachers use to show everyone an experiment, object or a worksheet. This model plugs into a PC, TV or projector and a microscope adapter is available. On which point Philip Harris has perhaps the most intriguing product of all: software that links digital microscopes over the school network. Called ‘Motic Net’ this lets you see how the class are doing with their microscopes, lets you run software from afar and also broadcast images to student PC’s. 

Options for primary school science include LogIT Explorer (£169 from Timstar / Griffin and RM) a one piece handheld unit with impressive battery life or LogIT eXperiment a compact USB sensor unit (£69 ibid) that doesn’t need a battery at all. Batteries are the liberators of this technology and also the enemy.

For an all-in primary package that does much of what you are being asked try EasySense Q (£169 from Data Harvest). A lower cost option is SenSci (around £130 from Valiant) while TTS hit a low price with a new box that has internal temperature, light & sound sensors (around £60 if bought as a set).

So finally to robots which as controllable devices, deliver a respectable chunk of curriculum. Robots gain an easy audience and for those you build and operate see the Lego systems. For a ready rolled experience see Quadrabotz (Instruments Direct £59) which walks, senses light and is fed using a programming language. The award short listed Bee-Bot (TTS around £50) is so easy to program you’ll wonder what there was to learn. This now has an older silbling for juniors which has a pen mechanism, and light, sound and touch sensors (around £60 as a set).

 

Roger Frost writes manuals and runs training days about data logging.

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