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April Sims

During the summer of 1996, I commandeered (they were sitting in the book room waiting for someone to pick them up for disposal) eleven Apple IIe's, 2 Apple ImageWriters, 2 switch boxes and enough cabling to connect all of them to a printer. Note: This article was written by a teacher, not any employee of Apple or Vernier Co's.

While retrieving a Teacher's Edition from the book room I noticed the machines. Realizing that Vernier still provides components and software for the Apple line of computers and also knowing that my science dept. already owned probes for PC's, I found our Apple versions of the software. Precision Timer III (photo gate studies, timing), Temperature Plotter III (for measuring up to 4 temperatures on one computer), Graphical Analysis III (plotting and printing graphs, analyzing data, printing data tables), Voltage Plotter III ( software needed to run the interface, Voltage Input Unit, between computer and probe).

Perhaps you need to ask in your science dept., Vernier gives a site license for the software, usually $25.00-$40.00. 24 of the 36 available probes /sensors will work with the Apples. That is only because some of the probes are machine specific, Mac or PC. You will need the Voltage Input Unit that plugs into the game port. This is the interface between the computer and the probe/sensor that you plug into the Voltage Input Unit. Besides the Voltage Plotter III software another required (not required but invaluable) program is Graphical Analysis III.

For the cost of 9 VIU's in kit form ($25.00 each + shipping) I was in business. Kit form means that they come with the electronic components that you solder together. If you want them to come already complete they run $45.00 and the software needed to run the VIU is $39.95. Compared to the cost of all new computers ($10,000+) this was a great bargain. No security problems because there is no hard drive. Even if disks get ruined they are cheap and still available. I just happened to be given over 200 disks recently because everyone else is getting rid of theirs.

We have a PC science network and 5 roll-around computers for this purpose already but the computers are bulky and it is hard to get all of them from other teachers for the lab that you need. I can use computers almost every day, from graphing data collected, timing experiments or using the probes / sensors for gathering data.

Probes my school owns already:

  • Barometer
  • Colorimeter
  • Conductivity
  • Temperature
  • Dissolved Oxygen Probe
  • EKG Sensor
  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Light Sensor
  • Magnetic Field Sensor
  • pH system
  • Photo gate
  • Pressure, Thermocouple

Any lab that you normally would need the students to measure can be accomplished by the probes. I still think they need to learn how to monitor / read a thermometer, barometer, pulse and perform chemical tests such as titration for monitoring dissolved oxygen but still also need to expose these students to computer-controlled / monitored environments because that is the way it is in the real world of work. Digital readouts instead of dials and gauges.

Labs planned:

  • Measuring Respiration by Monitoring Dissolved Oxygen in Aquatic Plants
  • Measuring Respiration by Monitoring pH changes
  • Graphing Anything and Everything Graph able!
  • pH of common substances
  • EKG
  • Factors that Affect Heart Rate
  • Absorbance Spectrum of Chlorophyll
  • Conductivity of Membranes
  • Dialysis and pH. . .
and many more that I haven't decided on.

Adapt most any lab you already do. I believe that students shouldn't be given explicit instructions for operating computers and software, they should stumble through it the first few times and then they will not be dependent on you so much!! Sink or swim. I do watch out for the students that take over and don't allow any of the other team members to participate in the process. Even if you don't know everything the students love to mess with programs and will help you learn as well.

To use the programs you usually start at the Main Menu and will load the appropriate calibration file according to which probe /sensor you need. Sorry these work best one probe at a time. There are instructions to "rig" it up for 2 but it is not recommended. You will also need to learn how to calibrate the probes. For example, temperature is calibrated using two temperatures, 100 degrees and 0 degrees Celsius. (Boiling water and ice water in two different beakers).

After calibrating return to Main Menu and then Monitor Input. That is where you have the probe ready to take a data reading. The program will keep the data points in the memory so they can be used imported to Graphical Analysis in order to graph the data.

There is a more expensive interface called the MPLI (MultiPurpose Lab Interface) but it is not practical for most people to invest that much money per machine. ($290). The company even recommends the VIU's instead. So go ahead and ask the Business department for their old Apple II's. Even try the computer science teacher. I plan on using one of the Apple machines to download software still available from the Internet (there are many die-hard Apple enthusiasts left in the world) to use in the classroom. Vernier Software 8565 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. Portland, OR 97225-2429 (503)297-5317 Fax (503) 297-1760

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