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Tinker with STEM

Tinker 10 packStem projects get a lot more creative with Tinker’s Electric Motors Catalyst kit. More so than the electric motor, gears, wheels and other parts, the key to the Catalyst kit’s success is its deck of cards that challenges students to build anything from an egg scrambler to a vehicle. The company provides helpful videos and standard alignment. Available for $45, Tinkering has 10-packs for $399.

Listen to them Charge

Easy-Doks CR25With Dok Talk’s CR25, you can charge and power up to 5 USB-based devices. The power strip has an output of up to 10-watts per device, making the CR25 about as powerful as it gets for energizing phones and tablets; each has surge protection against current spikes. Regardless of what’s going on in the classroom, the CR25 continues to listen for Alexa commands and contains a wireless surround sound speaker system. It costs $189.


Toolbox in a drawer

DSCN34542-HighIt’s hard to believe that you can squeeze a whole toolbox into one of Kelvin’s handheld toolkits. The Kelvin.23 and Kelvin.36 tool kits are like Swiss Army knives on steroids that fold open to reveal a surprising variety of tools. While the Kelvin.23 has everything from a level and screwdriver to a corkscrew and bottle opener for after-school teacher “conferences.” The Kelvin.36 adds an LED headlight, hammer and other useful tools. Both are rugged enough to be run over and can help to tighten the leg on a desk or hang banners. They cost $30 and $50, are available in several colors and one should be in the desk drawer of every teacher.

Freebee Friday: Underwriting STEM Success

UL xploreThe latest in teacher and classroom resources for STEM education is Underwriters’ Lab’s Xplorlabs. With help from Genuine, Xplorlabs is aimed at middle-school students and has lots of lessons with videos, hands on activities as well as classroom challenges to push students further. It’s all aligned with the NGSS standards and includes lots of examples of interdisciplinary thinking.



Go Pro For Less

Apple pro bundleApple’s Pro Apps Bundle for Education professional media tools is now on sale for $200 teachers, faculty, staff and students. The package includes everything from Final Cut Pro X (video-editing) and Logic Pro X (music creation) to Motion 5 (3-D animation), Compressor 4 (media encoding) and MainStage 3 (live performance app) for a complete creating and editing toolkit.

Prints Without the Cartridges

ET-2600_2Love the silent printing of inkjet machines but hate the expensive ink cartridges that always seem to be empty? Epson’s Expression ET-2600 EcoTank can create a variety of documents without an ink cartridge in sight. Instead, it uses high-capacity ink tanks and bottles of ink that hold the equivalent of dozens of cartridges. Think of the ET-2600 as the ET-16500's little sister. The ET-2600 comes with enough ink to print at least 4,000 pages, has a 1.4-inch view screen and can connect via a USB cable, wired LAN or WiFi for incredible flexibility. The ET-2600 printer will be available later this year for $280, including ink. 

Beyond HD

5071403_rdWith low resolution VGA and XGA monitors still more the norm than the exception at schools, there’s an opportunity to update what students and teachers look at by skipping HD and going right to next-generation Ultra-HD displays.

Dell’s S2817Q is a case in point that at $449 is only slightly more expensive than what a good HD monitor costs. Still, rather than putting 1,920 by 1,080 resolution on screen, the S2817Q display shows a full 3,840 by 2,160 resolution. That translates into images and video formed by a total of more than 8 million pixels, eight-times the detail of wide-XGA and four-items that of regular HD imaging.

At 17.6- by 25.9- by 7.3 inches, the all black S2817Q takes up a small amount of space considering that it provides nearly 28-inches (measured diagonally) of display space. It has slim 0.6-inch bezels that give it a trim look and a nice flat place on the stand to stash a phone or tablet; unfortunately, it doesn’t have a Qi inductive charging plate in it.

Its stand needs to be put together, but that takes about a minute. There’s a cable management hole for routing wires through the stand for a neat desktop. The stand allows you to tilt the screen back by 21-degrees or forward by up to 5-degrees,but you can’t swivel it right or left or rotate the screen between portrait and landscape modes. It also lacks VESA mounting holes that would allow it to be used with a wall mount or an off-the shelf stand.

The display comes with a pair of HDMI ports along with Displayport and audio connections. It has a built-in USB hub and two ports for anything from a thumb drive to a hard drive. It can work with older VGA-based inputs, but you’ll need to get an adapter.

5071403cv11dWhile its on-screen configuration system is straight-forward, the control switches are stiff and the S2817Q lacks a remote control. You can’t lock out any subsequent configuration changes made by students.

In addition to full-screen imaging, you can view two inputs side by side or as picture-in-picture mode. There are display preset configurations for Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Warm, Cool and a special paper mode that makes documents look paper-white. You can set your own custom mode by adjusting the red, green and blue levels.

The screen is rated with an ultra-fast 2 millisecond response rate that shows off HD and ultra-HD video clips well. It can show 82 percent of the S-rgb color gamut. It has a slightly bluish look, but delivers richly saturated colors and sharp edges. The S2817Q uses Twisted Nematic (TN) display technology rather than newer In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology and it shows with side-to-side viewing angles of about 165-degrees versus nearly 180-degrees for IPS.

Look closely and the S2817Q show details that were absent in viewing the same image or video on a w-XGA or HD screen. High-resolution items appear fuzzy or pixelated on lesser displays, but are pinpoint sharp on the S2817Q.

Using the Standard mode, the S2817Q delivered 226 cd/m2 of brightness, just enough for classrooms with the lights left on. Its anti-glare coating helps in rooms with overhead fluorescent lighting.

S2817Q closeup backThe S2817Q only uses 40.4 watts of power when in use and 0.5 watts in standby mode. This will help save money on electricity compared to a fluorescent lit screen or an antiquated tube monitor. In fact, if it’s used for 10 hours every school day and electricity costs the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, expect that the display will cost $10 a year to operate. That’s likely a pessimistic estimate because the S2817Q can shut itself down after a short period of inactivity.

Its sound sets the S2817Q apart from the crowd. In addition to a pair of 3-watt downward-firing speakers, the display has two 6-watt subwoofers that add a lot of bass to the stream. Overall, everything sounds full and has more than enough volume for a small classroom but could be helped with a little more mid-range tones.

At $449, the S2817Q includes a three-year warranty and is a bargain display that doesn’t look or sound like one. Its color reproduction may not be perfect and I wish you could attach it to standard mounting hardware, but it can’t be beat for bringing a lot of pixels to the class.



Dell S2817Q


+ Ultra-HD resolution

+ Side by side and picture in picture formats

+ Fast response rate

+ Excellent audio

+ Two USB 3.0 ports


- Stand doesn’t swivel or rotate

- No VESA mounting hardware

Small but Sharp

M300A-HoldingProjectors don’t have to be hulking, expensive, loud monsters anymore. Miroir’s M300A may not be for everyone but at 1- by 6- by 3.8-inches and weighing less than a pound, it is one of the most powerful micro-projectors around. The M300A can project 400 lumens of 1,280 by 720 resolution video, more than enough to fill an 8-foot screen and perfect for impromptu lessons. Despite its size, the M300A has a pair of speakers, good assortment of inputs and 5GB of built-in memory for storing all sort of lessons and videos. The best part is that it runs on Android 4.4 software and has a 5,000 milli-amp hour battery pack so can be used in places where other projectors can’t go.


VR Powerhouse

Asus vivo xInterested in producing virtual reality (VR) school material or just showing a virtual field trip to parents? Asus’s VivoPC X is a powerful desktop PC that can do it all. Despite its small size, the VivoPC X has everything needed for this visually demanding genre, from its seventh-generation Core i5 or i7 processor, top-speed memory and 500GB solid state storage system to the VivoPC X’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics engine. In other words, it can output anything from stunning VR material to 4K (up to 3,840 by 2,160 resolution) video. It’s been certified by Oculus to work with its headsets and has all the ports you should need. The VivoPC X will be available this spring for $800.

Freebee Friday: Decoding the Media

Look sharpThe election is happily over but the analysis and Monday morning quarterbacking is only starting. Project Look Sharp is a free product from Ithaca College for teaching media literacy so that kids can more fully understand what political and advertising messages are actually saying. It’s composed of a series of short videos that are accompanied by a presentation for the teacher to curate that goes a long way to deconstructing the message, the source and the audience. Chock full of political cartoons, ads and speeches, the clips provide a forum for discussing who produced the message, its credibility and who is the target of the item. The course goes a step deeper by analyzing who might be harmed or helped by their proposed plans.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.