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Fig 1: Datalogger with LCD display showing real time data
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Hand-held electronic device used to record information from sensors.


Essentially, dataloggers are small hand held devices which can obtain data from various sensors. Some can be then be connected to a PC where the data gathered can me manipulated in various ways.

There are many different types on the market specifically designed for school use. Most can be used with detachable sensors. Temperature, sound, light and movement sensors are most common. pH, voltage, conductivity and position sensors are also available for many loggers. Be aware that sensors are generally designed for a specific datalogger type and therefore are not interchangeable between different devices.

One main advantage of dataloggers over traditional sensors (thermometers for example) is that they will log automatically over time. Measuring the cooling of a beaker of water for example requires the pupil to check the thermometer at regular timed intervals and record the temperature against time. Not only can the datalogger do this automatically but the increments of time can sometimes also be varied from milliseconds to hours.

The second main advantage is that once this data has been gathered, in many cases it can be manipulated by connecting the datalogger to a PC and downloading the information. Many dataloggers come with software that enables pupils to plot graphs and make tables from the data which may then be exported into desk top publishing applications.

A good datalogger is one that is battery powered and can take repeated readings over a pre-set time period. Connection to a PC will allow real-time data to be analysed on the screen. Some cheaper end devices tend to only work when connected to a PC. These aren’t strictly dataloggers and although handy for some fixed lab work, are not much use on field applications.

Datalogger descriptions often refer to digital and analogue inputs. Digital inputs are used by sensors that detect whether something is on or off. For example a light gate comprising a lamp and a sensor. Analogue inputs are used by sensors which measure variations using continuous data such as light levels or temperature.

Dataloggers can be used in many lessons throughout school science. Recording of data in chemistry, biology and physics can be achieved easier and more accurately. Lessons in which dataloggers can be used are listed below. There are many, many more.

Sensors used
Endothermic and exothermic reactions
Cooling curves Temperature
Habitat types Light, temperature
Measuring speed Light gates
Acids and alkalis pH
Airtrack lesson Light gates
Insulation Temperature

Things to be aware of:

Battery life: Batteries will need to be charged after use. Refer to the charging information contained with the datalogger regarding frequency of charging.

Damage: Check each datalogger and sensor after each use. Temperature sensors can be damaged if exposed to too higher temperature. Some sensors are sensitive enough to be damaged by rough handling.

Compatibility: When choosing a datalogger, make sure it is compatable with the computer systems you use at your school. Ask the ICT department if in any doubt. Some bundled software requires a large amount of disk space as well as memory to run.


 CautionThe contents of this page are for information only. Please refer to CLEAPSS or ASE safety advice and/or publications before undertaking any preparation, practical experiment or using any equipment featured on this site or any other.