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CBL2 - Texas Instruments

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Verdict: Very powerful system that’s easily overlooked by virtue of the fact it works with a TI calculator. Offers a great range of sensors and experiment possibilities.Cons: uses a TI calculator which without training is likely to throw a few people. The US curriculum experiment notes need work to adapt – though many of the experiments are sound.

Pros: a great way to link maths and science work in school. It represents a good choice of kit where there is a track record of use of graphic calculators.

Texas Instruments’ CBL2 system (Calculator Based Laboratory) does all the data logging anyone would want and does it without a desktop PC. Replacing the PC is a TI calculator, which both displays the data and inevitably offers data analysis tools. This portable system has a calculator cradle, ‘flash’ memory for data and software, which is upgradeable via the Internet. Surprisingly perhaps, it logs data very fast while the range of sensors is comprehensive and affordable. Has a huge following. Those interested might get to a training workshop, because only a hands-on session makes clear how manageable this actually is. It's much improved since to become a very credible system.

Software, called Interactive, combines report writing, graphs and maths solving into a ground-breaking tool.

Future proofing: Texas Instruments is an established and sincere player in education. Although the original CBL unit has been replaced by the impressive CBL2, much of everything else you have need not be changed. With such constancy, the future proof rating of Texas Instruments kit is very high.

Texas Instruments CBL - first impressions

What is the connection between a hot cup of coffee and T=ABt+C?

Well, to cut a long syllabus short, it's that the equation describes the way in which cups of coffee, in staffrooms everywhere, cool. If you could only make "C" small enough, your coffee would cool faster. And you could drink it before the pips go.

You could just accept that as a fact. But if you're studying maths or science you really ought to get yourself a coffee and see for yourself. And to make that possible, there's equipment which lets you take the necessary measurements and then analyse them in detail.

The CBL (Calculator-based Laboratory) is a hand-sized unit into which you can plug sensors. Link the temperature sensor supplied, press a button or two and then read the temperature on a liquid-crystal screen.

There's a light probe and a voltage probe and, when you plug these in, they are automatically calibrated so you can start taking readings straight away.

You might test the voltage in a circuit as you would have done with a meter or data logger. And, as you might expect, there are other sensors - a force sensor, a pH sensor, a sound sensor. A really useful sensor is an ultrasonic motion detector which lets you measure how high a ball bounces or how things accelerate.

If you plug the CBL into the graphics calculator, you can see your measurements on a graph against time. To get that, you type in a program or alternatively use your desktop computer to send a ready-made program, which you can get from Texas Instruments, to the calculator. You can also connect two calculators and zap the program from one to the other.

What's left is a huge potential for data analysis. You now have the results in an unusually capable and portable calculator.

Take the cooling curve for a cup of coffee: the calculator will let you adjust the axes, subtract room temperature (that was "C" in the equation, by the way) from the readings, and try to fit the equation above to the graph. If it fits, you can start to make predictions about other cooling situations.

Fancy trying to control a motorised buggy with a calculator? See Calculator Control

 Web www.ti.com/calc   www.vernier.com

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