Using probeware for math and science exploration
is a great way to engage students in inquiry-based,
hands-on learning. And with manufacturers offering upwards of 70 probes for their data loggers, there have
never been more ways to gather real-time information for
nearly any activity, anytime, anywhere.
One advantage of the handheld data logger is that it
doesn’t have to be tethered to a computer to gather and
analyze information. Although many units come with
software that allows them to interface with a computer,
users don’t have to wait to view their data. Graphing and
analysis capabilities make data crunching quick and easy.
Some units even have a touch-sensitive color screen that
lets the user view data in different ways. Onboard memory allows for the collection of multiple data sets, and many
come with ports for expanded memory capacity.
Manufacturers offer a wide array of probes designed to
“plug and play” directly with their data loggers. Pasco has
more than 60 for its Xplorer GLX, ranging from magnetic
field and accelerometer sensors to ones that sense muscle
contractions and gamma radiation.
Sensors range in cost from less than $20 to several
hundred dollars and beyond, depending on their use,
sensitivity, and other factors. Many fall within the $50–
$150 price range when puchased individually, but some
manufacturers also sell probeware bundles that include
a data logger and an assortment of sensors.
Some data loggers are designed to work with other
equipment you may already have—good news considering
the $200–$400 cost of a portable data logger. CoachLab’s
ULAB, for example, is compatible with sensors produced
by Vernier, Texas Instruments, and Pasco.
In addition to built-in sensors, most units come with
multiple sensor ports. The TI CBL 2 has four ports (one
digital and three analog), along with temperature, light, and
voltage sensors built in. The CBL 2 is the most affordable
unit featured here, but bear in mind that it is a calculator-based unit that must attach to a TI-series graphing calculator to display its data.
Although the primary function of the data logger is to
collect information, manufacturers are adding functionality.
For example, the Nova5000 comes with Windows CE, an
assorted collection of applications, and WiFi capability.
Data Harvest’s Easy Sense Q3+ is Bluetooth capable, and
Vernier’s LabQuest comes with 50 embedded experiments
and an onboard periodic table.
Data Harvest Inc.
Easy Sense Q3+
Fourier Systems Inc.
Texas Instruments Inc.