Coming to a classroom near you... Investigations in a jar

An experiment hub for science lessons

Science is a subject in which being provided with the theory alone can leave children uninterested and frustrated by their inability to understand. It's often only when the test tubes, Bunsen burners and Van de Graaff generators come out that their interest is piqued.

One company, which produces science and engineering teaching equipment, and its academic partner are hoping that a new product will join that list of student favourites.

The Desktop Learning Module (DLMX) is a product of Washington State University in the US and the company Armfield. They claim that the "highly visual" product is a "brand new teaching system that can deliver results in a way that engages students and encourages them to investigate advanced engineering topics".

The DLMX is an experiment hub comprising a base unit and seven cartridges, each of which explores a particular discipline though a unique experiment. The base unit recognises the different cartridges and displays all the information required to perform detailed analysis of the discipline covered. The cartridges are easy for students to change without supervision and the display has multiple language options.

An example of the kind of experiment offered is the "Fluidised Bed" cartridge, which shows how fluidisation varies with the flow rate.

"Students can clearly see the movement of beads as the flow rate increases and how they settle when the flow rate is decreased," says Chris Addis, managing director of Armfield. "The teacher can explain how this system is used in the real world, for example using airflow to fluidise and freeze fresh peas, ensuring that they do not stick together as they are frozen."

Other cartridges include experiments on energy losses in hydraulic systems and cross-flow heat exchange.

The product launched in June in the US only and Addis says that orders have already started coming in. He says the key is the price: "It is easily affordable for schools, colleges and universities."

As for exactly how affordable the DLMX is, with a limited geographical release to date and different options available, there is no clear price to quote. With education budgets across the world shrinking by the second, it's arguable that any price will be too high for schools - and yet, with science, technology, engineering and maths prominent on government agendas, the DLMX and products like it may prove a necessary expense.

For more information visit discoverarmfield.com.

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