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 patronises.

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); Tel 01283 214100
  • Data Harvest Tel: 01525 373666
  • Deltronics, Tel: 01269 843728
  • Flowlog: Matrix Multimedia Tel: 0870 700 1831
  • IT in Science & Roger Frost Tel: 0845 430 0176
  • Kestrel: The Advisory Unit Tel: 01707 266714
  • Logbook: ScienceScope Tel: 0870 2256175 stand:
  • PASCO Scientific
  • Philip Harris Education Tel: 01530 418000 stand
  • Pico Technology Tel: 01480 396 395 stand
  • SenSci: Valiant Technology 020 8673 2233
  • Trilink - Economatics Education Ltd, Tel 0114 281 3344
  • Science4Schools 020 8560 5678 
  • Suna. Tel 020 8390 8811

Roger Frost is a science and ICT consultant

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