July 23, 2017

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Labdisc: A Data-logging STEM Device with Maker Potential |SLJ Review

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1703-TK-Labdisc-gensciBilled as an all-in-one STEM lab, the handheld Labdisc Gensci by Globisens is a useful tool to measure and record data for a wide range of experiments. The device resembles a large hockey puck with an outer ring that rotates to expose a series of built-in sensors. External probes measure sound, air pressure, humidity, global position, pH levels, voltage, humidity, distance, and more. Best of all, after a bit of button pushing and no fuss, the device works.

On discovering how much data the Labdisc can record, the students in an Advanced Placement Environmental Science class in my school were practically giddy. “We haven’t been able to use more than one probe at the same time before,” quipped Lia. After a brief explanation on how to use the device, Chris, another student, tested the precise pH values of various soil and water mixtures to determine what to place in his ecocolumn terrarium project. We found the Labdisc guide helpful, but we learned that through trial-and-error alone we were able to determine the device’s functions and uses fairly quickly.

Classroom utility

Labdisc requires little calibration and is capable of streaming accurate data to create graphs in ways that were “enormously sophisticated,” according to Chris. He demonstrated that by choosing two tagged points on the graph and noted that one could then use the curve function to “select either linear or quadratic regression to show the data’s standard deviation.” The graph can also display the resulting equation, an “incredibly helpful” utility according to the teen. I was impressed by our students’ ability to quickly grasp the concepts and uses of the Labdisc for their individual projects.

1703-TK-Labdisc-projectBack in my library, I introduced the Labdisc to my maker space group, which ran a few experiments to discover that its settings are quite variable. When measuring data, students can set the device to record from one sample per minute to an incredible 24,000 samples per second with a 128K sample storage memory. The immediate results, which can be graphed and saved or exported to students’ iPads or computers to be printed or emailed, are impressive. For example, the GPS tracker can be employed to record a trail on a satellite map with specific colors noting speed, altitude, or other programmable variables. Students manipulate these displays to add their own annotations and even photos of their experiments and upload them for display.

NGSS Connections

In the Globisens software library you’ll find information on experiments tied to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The experiments are available for classroom use, and come complete with lesson plans, sample graphs, and videos. Included are the “Free Fall Activity,” measuring the velocity of a ping-pong ball, and “The Candle Flame,” which measures heat from a candle flame. Others relate to topics such as acid rain, photosynthesis, Boyle’s Law, water quality, city microclimates, and more. Students might attempt the same experiments or analyze previously collected data and graphs.

The Labdisc can sync via Bluetooth devices and apps on Android or iPad tablets and there is even an app for Chromebooks. USB cables are included to connect to PC or Mac computers and the software has the ability to then connect a laptop to several Labdiscs at the same time.

There are four Labdisc models: Enviro for environmental science, Physio for physical science, BioChem for biochemistry, and Gensci for just about everything else. The discs retail for a pricey $600, but the Gensci has many more built-in sensors and works with most of the products my science teachers use now. Globisens also sells a 16-disc and tablet chargeable cart for around $10,500.

Verdict

While there may be other products that perform similar functions, schools looking for a data collection disc to support a STEM program or a science-oriented maker space should consider these Labdisc products. Their multiple probes, Bluetooth connectivity with a range of devices, and the versatility of recording capabilities make them an expense worth considering.

Back in the classroom, the AP Environmental Science teacher was thrilled. Teachers can spend half their time setting up and calibrating experiments so they work properly. Labdisc worked without time-consuming data entry and set up. Today, while her students were experimenting, our AP science teacher was busy writing a grant for her own set of Labdiscs.

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Phil Goerner About Phil Goerner

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO. He can be found on Twitter @pgoerner. Phil is also an adjunct professor with University of Colorado at Denver in the School Library and Instructional Leadership program.

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