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EcoLog XL

By Sally Finley - Posted Sep 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Fourier Systems, Inc., 3803 Wood Gardens Court, Kingwood, TX 77339. Phone: 800/564-2548; Fax: 770/587-0744; E-mail: info@fourier-sys.com; Internet: http://www.fourier-sys.com/.

Description: The EcoLog XL is a portable data logger with five built-in sensors for the measurement of temperature, light intensity, barometric pressure, humidity, and sound level. The unit is designed for use with students in grades K-8. Data can be displayed using graphs, meters, and tables. A built-in timing feature is included.

Specifications: Simultaneous sampling of up to seven sensors, 2x auto-ID external plug-in sensors, serial and USB connection (full speed 1.1 specification), 10 bit sampling resolution, 50 samples per second max logging speed, memory capacity of 64K user memory, and operation by 2 x 1.5 AAA battery power or Mains adapter.

The battery life is 1 year with stand-by mode. The display is a 2 x 16 character LCD display. The three-button control panel includes stop, run, and scroll samples. The digital timing is accurate to two decimal places from A to B and the operational temperature range is from 0-50 degrees C.

Price: Unit pricing begins at $209.

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows systems: Pentium II, 300 MHz, 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended), 10 MB available disk space for the EcoLab application (50 MB to install the supporting applications), Windows 95 or later, serial or USB port. Video window requires video camera, USB port, and compatible camera driver (installations include camera driver for the supplied Web camera). Record and play voice requires a sound card, microphone, and speakers. Internet 5.0 or later required (ships with the product).

Macintosh systems: PowerPC Macintosh G3, 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 25 MB available disk space, USB port. Video recording requires PowerPC G4 processor, 500 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 15 MB free disk space, USB port, and camera. Record and play voice requires a microphone.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I used the software on a Power Mac G4 IBook laptop computer running system 10.3. Installation was simple and quick. Once the software is installed on the hard drive, it is not required each time students access the program. The logger must be attached to a USB port. Installation Rating: A

Features: The EcoLog XL can be used as a stand-alone data logger or the unit can be connected to a computer for use as an online interface.

The EcoLog XL has four working modes. The Meters mode displays readings from active sensors, the Snapshot feature captures and stores specific data points, Easy Log collects data from active sensors and stores it in memory, and Timing measures timed events.

Two toolbars allow access to the seven view windows used to control the tools. A main (upper) toolbar contains tools and commands to control the logger. Tools that relate to a specific window are located at the bottom of that window.

Graph Display shows the graph in the main window. The X-axis can be changed to represent any individual data set. Two Y-axes are shown on the graph with the ability to add a third curve as an option. Manual scaling is available. The user can change line color, style, and width by clicking on graph properties.

Table Display presents data in table form. The value of datapoints can be changed and comments may be added.

Online Video enables the user to record video movies of the experiment and to replay them simultaneously with the data graph. Voice comments can be added to the video recordings.

The Timing Wizard measures and calculates time events such as velocity and acceleration with one or two photogates. Up to 1,000 timing events can be stored in one timer session.

The Workbook is a lab activity that automatically configures the EcoLab program and sets up the EcoLog XL for the student to collect data. Notes in text files can be added directly to the Workbook window.

Four meters—analog, bar, digital, and color—display live data and are updated five times per second.

The Data Map is a separate window that displays the list of data sets recorded or downloaded in the current session or previously saved graphs and tables. Data can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet. Graphs can be copied and pasted to Word or PowerPoint programs.

A Predict tool enables the user to draw predictions directly on the graph, prior to displaying the real data. Students can create a worksheet for inclusion on the Web.

In the classroom, the EcoLog XL can be used in scientific investigations set up as centers where students rotate in small groups using the sensors to collect data within an experiment. This data can be displayed in graphs, tables, and meters to facilitate analysis. As a culminating activity, students can prepare oral or written presentations to share their conclusions based on the inquiry.

The EcoLog XL tools can be used to collect data for individual and group science fair projects. Video can be imported to a presentation software program such as PowerPoint to summarize findings and define the process of the scientific investigation.

The portability of the data logger makes it easy to investigate scientific phenomenon, both indoors and out. Students can track the outside temperature for a specified period of time, determine the sound levels in the cafeteria during different grade-level lunch periods, measure barometric pressure before and after a rain storm, or compare the growing ability of plants when covered with various colors of cellophane. The possibilities for student scientific investigations are truly endless. Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The logger is easy to operate as a stand-alone device. Three keys enable the user to stop, run, and scroll samples during the monitoring process of an investigation. Plugged in sensors are automatically identified and easy to use.

Connecting the logger to a computer is a more involved task and requires time to read and study the provided instruction booklet. I found it necessary to re-read the manual several times to successfully complete an experiment using all of the available resources. The Experiments with the EcoLog XL guide assumed previous knowledge of the information provided in the instruction manual; it took several tries before I was successful in accessing the features noted in the guide. Ease of Use Rating: Stand Alone Logger: A, Logger Connected to Computer: A-

Product Support: Product support is provided through product manuals, curriculum guides, and a Help feature on the toolbar. I found the toolbar Help feature very useful and relied on it several times to be able to complete an experiment.

Online support offers a support request form for assistance, a frequently asked questions page, a help desk, and a download center. Support is available at the company Web site and by e-mail at info@fourier-sys.com.

In addition, well-written lesson plans with easy-to-follow directions are available online. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The EcoLog XL is a great resource to introduce young children to science tools. The sensors are easy to connect to the portable logger and the LCD screen instantly displays the results.

I especially liked the Experiment Guide with suggested lessons that addressed a variety of topics related to scientific investigation. In conjunction with the Workbook feature, these experiments were easy to complete, particularly since the EcoLog automatically configured the setup specifications when a specific lesson was selected.

I was definitely impressed by the advanced capabilities of this product, although I struggled at times in learning to use the computer features. Intermediate and middle school students would definitely enjoy the varied features provided for the acquisition and analysis of data.

The EcoLog XL brings meaningful, hands-on science into every classroom. The time spent learning to use this tool is definitely worth the effort. Today's students need the hands-on, data-driven inquiry that this product offers. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Sally Finley, Gifted/Technology, Country Hills ElementarySchool, 10550 Westview Drive., Coral Springs, FL 33076; 954/341-0460; sallyfinley1@yahoo.com.


 
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