what we said about data logging products

Articles from 1996 – 2008

Science resources update by Roger Frost in The Guardian (2008)

Choosing ICT for science experiments is best done in January as it’s when you hear if technology is turning a corner. This year data loggers are doing just that.
Typically, you plug a box into a computer to show data on its screen. Lately several altogether more clever boxes, are so capable that they don’t need to plug into anything. The big attraction is that batteries permitting, you can more easily take these devices between rooms.
Clever boxes include the PASCO ‘GLX’ logger with its big enough screen, heaps of data handling capability and which can plug into a computer, a printer or if you wax lyrical about experiments, into a keyboard. Then there’s LogIT Datavision CX with fast sound recording, an oscilloscope and timing capabilities. Another is the Sciencescope Logbook GL which has a graph display and now comes in a primary version
Those wanting to use a Pocket PC would look at Data Harvest’s ‘Graphical Logger Pack’ that uses a Compact Flash slot to turn a mini personal computer into a convenient laboratory measuring device. In a Windows-like setting using its software to analyse graphs is pretty much doable.
This year there is more corner-turning. The Vernier Labquest looks like a PDA in a rubberised splash-proof case. It features a button to start measuring and a touch screen to use analysis features. If connected to a computer it works with the quite excellent, Logger Pro software.
New also is the Nova 5000EX (from Economatics / Fourier) which, as one piece computer and data logger sets out a new platform for lab measurement. Its respectable 18cm screen, tablet PC style and familiar Windows CE is a help. To this you add Internet Wi-Fi, email and a projector socket.
Also to see is the cheerful TTS Log-Box at £75 that feels made for primary school. There’s Kudlian Soft’s DataSweet which treats measuring as a recording rather than dead and done graph. This wonderful realisation is for Apple computers. Very new is XLlogger.com whose plug and go sensors feed data into Microsoft Excel as opposed to something unfamiliar. Finally you’ll want to see Rocket logger which can be attached to a rocket as it measures acceleration. You can also visualise the trajectory in Google Earth. If anyone wondered where data loggers are headed, they most surely do now.

Data Harvest www.data-harvest.co.uk
Fourier Systems Ltd
Kudlian Soft
Lego Education Stand www.lego.co.uk
PASCO Scientific www.pascophysics.co.uk
Rapid Electronics
Sciencescope www.sciencescope.co.uk
Vernier/IDS www.www.inds.co.uk

Science resources update (2006) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine

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 these unusual times that experience can be wonderfully different. Several brands distinguish themselves.

The Vernier Go! system distinguishes itself. It can measure pretty much anything. New this year is Go! Motion 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). 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 groundbreaking see the PASCO Chemistry Sensor 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). 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). 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 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 (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 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 sibling for juniors which has a pen mechanism, and light, sound and touch sensors (around £60 as a set).

Science resources update (2005) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine

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 (2005)

  • Xplorer GLX – PASCO
  • Easy Sense Link and Easy Sense Q – Data Harvest
  • LogIT DataVision

We start with Xplorer GLX (from PASCO) the most functional ‘data logger’ you can find for physics, 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 keyboard – a 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 (£ ) 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 (£  ) 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’ (£ ) 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 ( 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 (£ ) 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 (£ ) which distinguishes itself with its low cost and great range of sensors. The result is very portable and uses a wireless infrared 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 
Data Harvest www.data-harvest.co.uk
Flowlog: Matrix Multimedia www.matrixmultimedia.co.uk
Kestrel: The Advisory Unit
Logbook: ScienceScope www.sciencescope.co.uk
PASCO Scientific www.pasco.com
Philip Harris Education www.philipharris.co.uk
Pico Technology www.picotech.com
SenSci: Valiant Technology www.valiant-technology.co.uk
Trilink – Economatics Education
Science4Schools www.science4schools.co.uk

Science resources update (2004) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine 

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

Plug in a temperature sensor you bought a dozen years back, and global warming or no, you can bet it’s still measuring celsius 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 for disposable.

But this year starts with joy, especially for those who own sets of ‘LogIT’ sensors. The LogIT Datavision  is a new generation logger with the distinction of letting you plug in those old probes to get measuring temperatures as before. What’s 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 logging’s 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. The software is very easy too.

From Matrix Multimedia comes the ‘Flowlog’ data logger which will also ‘talk’ to Palm PC’s 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 all possible.

While the ‘Palm’ seems to be the portable computer of choice, Data Harvest have the ‘Easysense Flash logger’ (£) for those keen on Microsoft’s 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 PC’s. This year, the ‘Easysense Flash logger’ won a BETT Award.

Those who’ve 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 Sciencescope’s own which including an interesting infrared distance sensor’ which acts as an electronic ticker tape.

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 ‘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 yesterday’s gear.

Science resources update (2003) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine

Must see (2004):

Don’t miss:

  • Visual accelerometer and PASPORT sensors from PASCO
  • Flash Logger from Data Harvest
  • Insight Data logging software

Small or fast, innovative or functional, this year sees a new batch of data loggers and sensors aimed at the science classroom. With what is arriving (and it’s all on show at BETT 2003) you can build on what you have, start from scratch or extend what you do.

DATA HARVEST www.data-harvest.co.uk

If you are looking for ‘small’, the EasySense FlashLogger (Data Harvest £125) is one of the most compact ‘loggers’ you can find. It slots into a socket found on many Pocket PC devices as made by Casio, Toshiba and Hewlett Packard. It then connects to Data Harvest’s ‘SmartQ’ sensors to do any experiment you would care to do. Creditable is its software (Sensing Science) which is well-featured for such a tiny computer. Helpful are the onscreen worksheets which set up the system up for you. Intelligent are the SmartQ sensors – and there’s now a new colorimeter and force sensor – because they’re able to tell the computer what they can do. In the past you’d have a troublesome upgrade.
What needs testing is how well data logging gone dinky-size can work as Pocket PCs as these are not the most robust, functional or inexpensive computers. However, many will find ways over the hurdles – printing graphs, recharging batteries and installing software – to find a platform as versatile as any.


A new logger called Flowlog (from £) distinguishes itself by working with low cost Palm handhelds as well as a PC. Its use of infrared to link with a Palm is novel but the bigger appeal is that these pocket organisers start at £70 and reduce the overall cost. As well as data logging, Flowlog has D&T uses as a storage oscilloscope, circuit board tester and control technology interface. There are two models, one boxed to use plugs and one ‘bare board’ version using screw terminals. Launched with a huge range of sensors from US supplier Vernier, it begs a trial.


For ease of use, very little comes near PASCO’s USB range which this year includes the highly innovative Visual Accelerometer (VA – £145 approx). This new sensor has a line of ten LEDs which light up in turn to measure and so visualize, acceleration. Push it in one direction to see one or more red LEDs light, push it in the other to see the green LEDs light. Place it on a ‘cart’, wheel it down a track or bounce it from a spring and you quickly find yourself with the most effective new teaching tool in years. The VA works well without a computer but connect it with a ‘USB-Link’ and run Data Studio software (for PC, Apple, OS-X) and you have a handy accelerometer. This means that you can not only graph acceleration live, but if you use a Force sensor as well, you can plot one against the other and do ‘F=ma’.
New PASCO sensors in this unbelievably plug and play range include a turbidity sensor and a carbon dioxide sensor. And then there is a smart colorimeter which without fuss records absorbance over four wavelengths simultaneously. If that’s not something you’re used to doing, try it as you study reaction order. You’ll see four graphs, choose the best and soon realise that colorimetry is useful and better using technology.


Sciencescope will have two new data loggers both of which are able to use Philip Harris sensors. The Logbook SM (£275) has a 16-character display, three built-in sensors and room for two others. The Logbook XD (£250) offers more sophisticated recording options – including very fast recording for physics. New sensors include a colorimeter, pulse, force, voltage, current, oxygen, humidity and a barometer. See here also for a new (USB) camera that can film experiments as you log data.

LOGIT After winning a BETT award last year for LogIT Explorer, the primary school data logger, the unit gains an inexpensive accessory to build a feedback system. The Explorer Controller (£) allows you to power a buzzer, a fan or lamp in response to changes in temperature. Also from LogIT comes a Datameter USB Starter Pack (£) to make data logging work out of the box on computers without a serial port.

The Human Physiology pack (£869) looks like just the thing Biology and PE teachers have been asking for. For starters there’s a heart sensor to show pulse and ECG, even during exercise. But then there’s a ventilation sensor to measure air flow and a ‘respiration box’ to measure oxygen levels. Completing the package is the portable VTT Console that has a tiny screen and many computer-like features. Data you collect can also be uploaded to the computer.

The best news for Economatic’s VTT Console (above) as well as devices from Deltronics, LogIT, Data Harvest and others is that each works with ‘Insight Data logging’ (£85) the latest or fourth version of this legendary software. New features like automatic scaling of graphs remove the need to set the recording time, while the screen layout now puts a graph, digits, bars and results table all on screen at once. Many will want to see how Insight’s data logging program, physics timing program and teach yourself module have now been melded into one. An upgrade from those with version two looks tempting enough.

Data Harvest www.data-harvest.co.uk
Log-IT www.dcpmicro.com
Matrix Multimedia www.matrixmultimedia.co.uk
PASCO Scientific
Pico Technology www.picotech.com
ScienceScope www.sciencescope.co.uk
Valiant Technology www.valiant-technology.co.uk

Science resources update (2001) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine

Data logging, the technology for teaching science, becomes unbelievably easy this month. Breaking with traditions that go back years, new sensors now plug directly into the computer and are ready and working within seconds. The range of sensors from Pasco use the ‘USB’ socket found on many machines. They bring ‘plug and play’ measuring to science lessons. Plug in a temperature sensor, see the software launch and you’ve a system that’s as slick as it needs to get. That this ‘PASPort’ sensor, eschews power supplies, batteries and fussy interface boxes will suit many settings, though the target is pupils at ages 9-14.

There’s more to this than taking temperatures. Using other plug-and-play sensors you can measure distance, heart rate, force and pH. Swap them around and the software comes up roses, offering a correctly scaled graph ready for a investigation. The software also links to a huge work scheme of electronic sheets that not only illustrate a task but guide pupils through it. In turn these link to several tomes of curriculum, which if US flavoured, merit study for their attention to detail.

In the last couple years, US company Pasco have come to the fore with ground breaking, high performance equipment. Much of this has no equal, even here in the UK, the centre of the data logging universe. Their Science Workshop systems has shown itself to offer the very fast data capture that, like an oscilloscope, put sound waves and lamp flicker on the PC screen. Sensors that directly measure force and acceleration make you wonder whether we need to rethink how we teach. A colorimeter that automatically zeroes itself and leaves you to start measuring offers the chemists and biologists similar food for thought. It’s much like the way the calculator impinged on maths teaching.

Pasco’s data logging software called Data Studio (downloadable free demo at www.pasco.com) showed how it was possible to exploit the capabilities of modern computers. Its ‘go ahead and try it’ approach lets you rescale graphs, change settings and tweak the display as you take readings. Its built-in worksheet maker quickly brings the whole business of managing a lesson to a head. Data Studio isn’t a bundled in piece of software, it’s a serious glance at how we might do science this century.

The Passport range is rightly aimed at the younger end of school where they will be used occasionally and reliability is paramount. To a large extent, the success rate and the lower cost of training staff might offset their highish cost. If that might makes them less that perfect put aside the idea of buying lots of them and you can find here a brilliant, very reliable distance sensor, heart monitor and pH meter to use from time to time.

Data logging has been synonymous with technology not working. Whereas in recent years the flat battery has been king, a USB connection offers power in the plug and pushes all that into history. Plug and play had to come to data logging one day, but really it didn’t have to be this good.

Science resources update (2002) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine

Computers have moved on. New PC’s have started to lose their ‘serial ports’, the connectors that nearly all data loggers use to send their readings through. Last year many schools bought laptops, only to start searching for USB converters to make their old loggers work. The moral is to buy with the computers you’ll use in mind. Some manufacturers have responded well – users of the LogIT range can buy a cable (£20) that connects old gear to the USB port of the new computer. That and a software update make it all work again. It’s an elegant bacon saver.

Science resources update (1996) by Roger Frost, TES Online magazine

Scientific discoveries are rare these days, but when a couple of years back, DfE funds helped schools to equip themselves with computer sensors, some discoveries were made.

Teachers discovered how sensors helped pupils to understand those tricky sciencey things like ‘changes’ and ‘cooling curves’.

In one school pupils connected a sensor that recorded sound to the computer. When they made noises they ‘saw’ them on a graph. Then the teacher told the class that if the noise went over 90 decibels, they’d lose their break. They played along, testing how noisy they could be and watching the screen. They learned quickly, discovering things about graphs, measurement and keeping their break.

The funding, called the GEST scheme, stretched to a few hundred schools who also discovered that you don’t need to split atoms to use sensors. Even a first out-of-prep room experience using sensors to measure hand temperatures can lead to deep and meaningful science.

Since the scheme ran, and the money ran out, there are some new sensor kits and some for primary schools. All kits have sensors which plug into a sensor box and then to the computer. A laptop is handy, but any Windows, Acorn or Apple machine that uses menus and mice is best. You’ll find titles such as Insight, Junior Insight, Investigate, SoftLab, Datadisc Ag and Datadisc Explorer.

Data Harvest’s sensor box is called ‘EasyLog’. Like their established ‘Sense & Control’ box it plugs into the computer and lets you see graphs and readings on the computer screen. For collecting readings away from the computer, the ‘EasyLog’ is very ‘plug and play’. You plug in the sensors, press a button, and it will collect data until you’re ready to stop. The EasyLog even works with Acorn Pocket Book or Psion computers.

You also need sensors – the most useful measure temperature, light, sound and time. But if you want to branch out, Data Harvest do three really interesting sensors. There’s a motion or distance sensor for making ‘live’ distance-time graphs, a speed of sound sensor for measuring just that and lastly, an amazing heat loss sensor you can put on a window and ‘see’ the heat flowing through it.

Another system you’ll find is a family with the LogIT, LIVE and DataMeter sensor boxes. You choose the box that suits, and then choose the sensors you’d like. DataMeter is new. It displays your readings, runs on long-life rechargeables and has easy buttons that start and stop it. Both this and the LogIT box are portable and let you work out of doors. And while LogIT now has a clip on display, if you’re buying new, the new DataMeter costs little more.

Primary schools will like the LIVE box. It has no buttons at all, and comes as a low priced kit. While it only works when connected to a computer, you can plug it into a laptop or Acorn Pocket Book and use it out of doors. LIVE shows its potential for secondary work when you use it with sensors such as voltage sensors and ‘gates’ which let you measure time.

Science supplier, Philip Harris do a large range of sensors for their sensor boxes. Their First Sense range provides the essentials for data logging. The sensors have a designed feel to them and again, this is a no-button system. But if you want to experiment out-of-doors, you’ll want their DLplus box instead. A tiny screen shows your readings on a graph. A small keyboard lets you save your results and adjust how often the sensors take readings.

Philip Harris have a deluxe range of sensors, called SensorMeters. With this comprehensive range, you can measure radioactive decay or even infra-red radiation. They double as portable bench meters with adjustable measuring ranges, though they are pricey.

Economatics do the Smartbox, whose control features tend to place it in Technology. Now there’s the Discovery with some science features: a nice size, a sensor display and an option to use it in the field.

Just a little sensor equipment is trickling over from the USA and the PASCO range is here with its high school flavour. It’s capable of very high speed data logging that let’s you capture sound waves live on the computer. There are complete packages for each science, but again they cost.

If there’s a cutting edge ‘Video Logging’ may be that. With this you can not only record the noise level of the class, but also video them at the same time! Or you can video a flower opening as the daylight comes and goes. It’s interesting, expensive but unlikely to outlive initial enthusiasm.

While computers change dramatically by the month, it’s some comfort that the sensors of five years back still work on the latest machines. What that means is that today’s hi-tech computers and software, are running quite modest sensors. Like that class noise meter, it might sound like a mismatch of technology, but it works.

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