Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TI-Nspire Lab Cradle: Part 1

I just got back from a great T^3 STEM Conference in the Atlanta area. It was a blast* sharing "Colorful ConneXions" between math and science with the TI-Nspire CX CAS. (*Yes, I did show a video of the blast off of a recent Space Shuttle launch and gave links to NASA TI-Nspire activities, like this Alg 1 activity.) These CX sessions had an excellent mix of teachers and technology coordinators, including physics, physical science, calculus, and algebra instructors. One participant from Florida, who I hope to see at a Summer Workshop, wanted the session to keep on going because he enjoyed it so much.

Some of the participants were excited to learn about the new Vernier DataQuest application and wanted to know more about the TI-Nspire Lab Cradle, like how much it costs. For the participants who were familiar with Vernier's Logger Pro, they felt right at home with the DataQuest. They were pleased with the options available, like the built-in Motion Match, along with the versatility of the functionality.

Regarding connecting sensors, to use one CBR2 or an Easy Temp you do not need any interface device. Plug it in and you are ready to go and have students make discoveries and connections about slope, sinusoidal cures, parabolas and more. Two of my students won a trip for themselves and me to the Kennedy Space Center for their research and presentation regarding parabolas with the motion detector. (Here is the press release from last year.) Teachers will appreciate that you can just plug in the motion detector and click the green start collection button to get the position-time and corresponding velocity-time graph simultaneously.
Update: With OS 3.6 in December 2013, you don't need to move your cursor or press TAB to get to the green start collection button. It is active and ready for you to press Enter to begin collecting data. 

By pressing menu, Analyze, Tangent (derivative) or Integral, calculus classes will find themselves easily making real-world connections.

The Easy Link, an interface between one probe and the TI-Nspire handheld, enables you to plug into a good number of sensors. It costs $59. However, you are still limited to one sensor unless you plug into a computer. You can connect as many sensors as you have USB ports and Go! Links.

Data collection is extremely fast and easy when you do two sensors at the same time. Currently this can be done with the old TI-Nspire Navigator Cradle or with the software.
Now with the TI-Nspire Lab Cradle you can connect the mini-USB port on the top to the USB of your computer (no TI-Nspire handheld required) and enjoy demonstrating data collection with the 3 analog (for most sensors, including voltage, pressure, etc) and 2 digital (like for the CBR, microphone, rotary motion sensor, etc) channels.

Some examples of data collected with two sensors include: 

- Magnetic Field Sensor, current probe, and a slinky to get great linear data
- magnetic field sensor and motion sensor for distance for an inverse relationship
- light intensity and distance - an inverse square law relationship
- voltage and current - the slope of this linear data is resistance, based on Ohm's Law.

With the Lab Cradle you will even be able to plug in two CBRs if you have a mdc-btd cable. Students can then investigate motion parametrically. One motion detector can be oriented in the x-direction and the other in the y.

YES, you read that correctly. With the Lab Cradle you can use the old Vernier probes and sensors you've had in a science storage room or mathematics teacher's closet. This includes the CBR! I'll try to share more on this and include pictures this next week.

Also, the TI-Nspire Lab Cradle is like getting 3 Easy Links plus a lot of things you couldn't get or do with the Easy Link. So in that regards the $145 doesn't seem so bad. Especially if you got the 5-pack bundle that comes with a 5-unit charging bay, that would be enough for just about any class size. With the experiment set up, every student could collect the data on their own Nspire.

In a similar price range is Vernier's LabQuest Mini. It is $149. With that you will need a computer with Logger Pro or Logger Pro Lite. Of course with the Lab Cradle you need a TI-Nspire OR a computer with Nspire software (http://www.vernier.com/calc/ti-nspire/interfaces-and-sensors.html).
Vernier's stand alone device is LabQuest. This impressive colorful touchscreen device is $329, but it comes with the emulator software.

So if your school, or even if it is just you using the TI-Nspire Software, or if you have some students with the TI-Nspire, what should you get?

I'll try to answer this in more detail next time...

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