Vernier Offers Free Software, Plays with Legos, Goes Green For Education
Data collection technology provider Vernier Software & Technology has announced several new offerings for the education market, including free Logger Lite and LabQuest Emulator software, a new NXT sensor adapter for Lego Mindstorms NXT robots, and free eco-friendly classroom activities.
The company will offer its Logger Lite software, providing graphing and analysis tools to K-12 students, free for Intel-powered classmate PCs. As a part of the Intel-powered classmate PC Ecosystem Vendor Alliance, the company will offer both Windows and Linux versions of the software for the durable, "kid-friendly" personal devices.
"In today's economy, education is in need of low-cost computing options that provide great value," said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher, in a prepared statement. "By adding easy-to-use, yet powerful, scientific software to Intel-powered classmate PCs at no cost, we are greatly expanding the ability for students to engage in hands-on exploration in science classrooms."
The company will also offer its LabQuest Emulator software as a free download, allowing teachers to demonstrate lab activities in real-time to an entire class. The emulator includes the features of a handheld device, but can be plugged into a projector or interactive whiteboard for greater class participation.
"Once the LabQuest handheld is connected to the computer, the Emulator software can detect more than 50 sensors attached to the handheld," said Vernier. "Then teachers can use their mouse to click on the screen in the same way they would tap the handheld's screen with the stylus. Our goal is to provide a free resource for teachers that makes science instruction easier and at the same time enhances class participation."
As an added bonus, teachers can also use the emulator to produce screenshots of the application for inclusion in printed lab materials.
In other Vernier news, the company has announced a partnership with Lego Education, National Instruments, Tufts University, and Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Academy.
The partnership, centering on Vernier's development of an adapter for the Lego Mindstorms NXT robotic system that allows the Lego robots to connect to more than 30 of Vernier's analog (BTA) sensors, is part of a concerted effort to advance robotics in education.
According to Vernier, "Combining the NXT program with Vernier sensors allows teachers and students to build robots that can react to temperature, light, pH balance, ultraviolet light, and much more."
In addition to working with Vernier's hardware, the adapter also works with National Instruments' LabVIEW programming language, as well as the Robolab programming language developed by the Center for Engineering Outreach at Tufts.
Finally, Vernier is offering free, information-based classroom activities that take advantage of statistics from recent building renovations that helped earn the company gold-level LEED certification.
The available information includes both live and historical photovoltaic energy production data from Vernier's solar panels, plus a solar panel dashboard that provides a Web cam view of the system, as well as a view of Mt. Hood, giving anecdotal environmental data.
Other measures taken by the company include the installation of a white roof for heat reduction, establishing eco-friendly cleaning practices, and receiving 70 percent of building power from wind generators.
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Chris Riedel is a freelance writer based in Illinois. He can be reached here.