PASCO takes the worry out of STEM with a family of sensors and software that let you use plain old USB cables or Bluetooth to connect them to a variety of platforms. With nine members the wireless sensor line ranges from a $39 temperature sensor for monitoring or regulating a chemistry experiment to the $159 Smart Cart that’s perfect for teaching about Newton’s Law, conservation of energy and work.
Happily, PASCO’s SPARKvue software can directly connect with just about every platform at schools, from Windows and Macs to Chromebooks, iOS and Android tablets. None of the sensors, however, work with Google’s Science Journal software. On the downside, you’ll likely need PASCO’s USB adapter for older Windows and Macs as well as Chromebooks.
The $49 voltage meter worked perfectly with an iPad Pro via Bluetooth and a Surface Pro 3 tablet with the cable. Small enough to put in a pocket, the voltmeter runs on a rechargeable battery pack. The white box not only has the model number on it, but a simple wiring diagram showing that the voltage sensor needs to be in parallel while the similar current meter needs to be set up as a serial connection.
It comes with a pair of plug-in electrodes and there’s a USB connector for charging and connecting it to a computer. The sensor has an on-off switch as well as LEDs for Bluetooth connections and battery status.
After pressing the sensor’s button, it became discoverable for Bluetooth connections and linked on the first try. The sensor stayed connected wirelessly up to about 40-feet from the tablet and its battery should be good for weeks of daily use.
The wireless voltmeter can measure voltage with a 0.5-percent accurate up to 15-volts but can handle momentary surges of up to 250-volts. There’s also a current meter available that tops out at 1 amp and has an internal resistance of 0.1 Ohm. Both are capable of recording up to 1,000 samples per second using its Bluetooth connection or 100-times that with a wired connection.
The sensor worked just as well wirelessly or plugged in. I used the gear for a couple of labs like using the output of a solar cell to track the increasing daylight of a sunrise. Later I used a rheostat to track the voltage with increasing and decreasing resistance. These devices and the others available can be used for everything from a physics lab to monitoring an electrochemical reaction.
Pasco has a good variety of online materials to help make using the voltage sensor and other wireless products easy, including videos. There are online training seminars available for teachers who feel the need of a little help getting started.
Because they don’t have to use wires to connect and cover the majority of computers used in schools today, the PASCO wireless family of sensors can help neaten up the science lab.
$39 to $159
+ Works with iPads, Androids Macs, Chromebooks and PCs
+ Online training and teaching resources
+ Good variety of sensors
+ Directly connects with many recent comptuers
- Doesn’t work with Google Science Journal
- Some older computers require connection interface