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Go with the flow

Roger Frost checks the stats on the the latest generation of data-logging equipment and senses improvements

It is uncommon to get in any way excited about a new data-logger. But if you take "measuring and control" in the science and technology curriculum seriously, you may find you need a lot of equipment - like sets of loggers and computers.

Flowlog - an inexpensive logger from Matrix Multimedia ought to generate some excitement. To earn its keep in science, it records data from experiments. In technology it works as a unit that switches things on and off in control projects. And for electronics it provides a powerful two-channel oscilloscope. With a unit price starting at pound;99, this feature-packed logger is so affordable it ought to cause a stir.

Coming in two varieties, the Lite version is an open circuit board with built-in sensors, sockets and screw terminals. With these you can power motors, attach switches or even wire in the sensors that many schools have.

What the unit can then do technology-wise is rich in scope. If you've any doubt, dozens of sensors are available to measure current, force, pulse and so on.

For another pound;150, Flowlog comes as a boxed Standard version that feels more presentable in science and replaces the terminals with "banana-plug" sockets. It can be charged up like any other logger, set to take experiment readings or even put in a greenhouse to record.

With the features of a logger, control unit and 'scope, the software supplied does more than you asked for and manages a few tricks like very fast measurement or recording 12 sensors at once. Its menus are cavernous, but there's an upfront wizard to take you through the main tasks. If you care not for using a PC, the unit works with the Palm, a shirt-pocket-sized computer than can be bought for as little as pound;75. It is a remarkable feat, as with this you can use a wireless infrared link to send instructions or data between the Flowlog and the Palm, a star of the pocket diaries. I don't recall anything as slick or offering "class set" potential for so little money.

Those teaching technology or ICT, and keen to set pupils challenging projects will find unusual capability in Flowlog. For science the unit feels idiosyncratic and I think that it is close to solving too many problems at once. However, if the price and the mass of features conjure some excitement, Flowlog is an option to investigate.

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LogIT Datavision Griffin Education Stand Y90 Tel: 01509 233344

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Flowlog low cost system Matrix Multimedia SW21 Tel: 0870 700 1831

Measure by measure

Check out the following suppliers at BETT: Advisory Unit Computers in Education G35 Tel: 01707 266714

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Valiant Technology B74 Tel; 020 8673 2233


Data-logger control box and oscilloscope with built-in sensors. Requires a Palm or a regular Windows PC with printer port. Full range of Vernier-made sensors available from company website.

Prices: Lite pound;99 and Standard pound;250 Matrix Multimedia Tel 0870 700 1831

Fitness for purpose *** Ease of use **** Features ***** Design *** Value for money ****

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