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Happy Holidays from All of Us at Vernier!

Your friends, colleagues, and fellow scientists at Vernier wish you a heartfelt happy holiday, winter fun, and the joy of scientific exploration.

In keeping with our commitment to Earth-friendly practices and to supporting the community, Vernier Software & Technology has donated to 21 charities, including The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, and Mercy Corps.

2019 Vernier Engineering Contest

The annual Vernier Engineering Contest provides a great opportunity for educators to showcase how they are creatively using Vernier technology to introduce engineering concepts to students. Contest entries can include activities such as introducing coding by reading Vernier sensors with Scratch, using sensors in the engineering design process, controlling digital outputs based on Vernier sensor inputs, integrating Vernier sensors with robotics platforms such as LEGO®, VEX®, or Arduino®, and so much more.

The deadline to submit your application for the 2019 Vernier Engineering Contest is February 15, 2019.

The winning educator, selected by a panel of Vernier experts, will receive $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and $1,500 toward expenses to attend either the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) STEM conference or the ASEE conference.

Watch on YouTube

Tate Rector, an Engineering and Project Lead The Way teacher at Beebe Public Schools, challenged his 8th grade engineering students to present a solution (using Vernier sensors with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3) to an everyday problem in order to make connections with the engineering practices identified in NGSS.

“Winning the Vernier Engineering Contest in 2015 kick-started our engineering program here at our school,” said Tate Rector, a teacher at Beebe Junior High in Arkansas and a former Vernier Engineering Contest winner. “While my 7th and 8th grade students used to think it was just fun or cool to see things explode or fly, evaluation of the data we collect using Vernier technology has helped them see the reason why we do the experiments.”

Learn more about the 2019 Vernier Engineering Contest »

The 2019 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards Deadline is Approaching!

The deadline for applications for the 2019 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards is quickly approaching. This annual awards program recognizes seven educators—one elementary teacher, two middle school teachers, three high school teachers, and one college-level educator—for their innovative uses of data-collection technology in the science classroom or laboratory.

Each winner, chosen by a panel of NSTA-appointed experts, will receive $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier products, and up to $1,500 toward expenses to attend the annual NSTA National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 11–14, 2019.

All current K–12 and college science educators are eligible to apply. The deadline for submitting an application is December 17, 2018.

Last year’s award winners, including Robert Hodgdon from Richmond Hill Middle School, Richmond Hill, Georgia, demonstrated a variety of ways data-collection technology can be used in and out of the classroom. Hodgdon engaged his students in real-world ecological investigations to help them develop STEM career readiness skills. This included students using Vernier data-collection technology, such as pH sensors, to understand the biotic and abiotic factors relevant to their local habitats including tidal marshes, ephemeral wetlands, and relic forests.

“Winning the Vernier/NSTA Awards provided us with a new collection of LabQuest® 2 interfaces, as well as new temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity probes,” said Hodgdon. “Students are able to use these technologies during ecological activities and as an integrated part of their science instruction year-round.”

Learn more about the Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards »

Go Direct® Sound Featured on NSTA Recommends

Martin Horejsi, from NSTA Recommends, has collected data with Go Direct Sound just about everywhere on campus. In his review, “The Vernier Go Direct Sound Sensor: See Sounds in a New Light (Bluetooth),” Martin discusses the importance of sound safety, provides a brief history of the decibel, and details various investigations using Go Direct Sound.

Martin concludes his experience by saying:

“The Vernier Go Direct Sound Sensor is a welcome addition to the family of bluetooth sensors giving our students a tremendous visual inspection into the world of sound. And it really does put a face on those eardrum-generated electrical pulses bouncing around inside their brains. Soon the students will be saying things like, ‘I thought that sound looked loud.’ And it will make perfect sense.”

With Go Direct Sound, students can capture and evaluate waveforms. Exploring the waveforms of various musical instruments has never been easier. Students can also use the sensor to measure wave amplitude and sound intensity level at the same time during decibel scale investigations. They can even take the sensor outside the classroom to measure sounds in their natural environment.

The sensor is part of the complete Go Direct family of sensors that offers teachers and students maximum versatility to collect scientific data either wirelessly or via a USB connection. These affordable sensors can be used in more than 300 teacher-tested experiments developed by Vernier and are supported by free graphing and analysis software, the Graphical Analysis 4 app.

Read more about the Go Direct Sound on NSTA Recommends »

Join 100 Million Students in Hour of Code

“Computer science empowers students to create the world of tomorrow.
– Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

What is Hour of Code?

The Hour of Code is a global movement introducing tens of millions of students worldwide to computer science, inspiring kids to learn more, breaking stereotypes, and leaving them feeling empowered. The Hour of Code began as a one-hour coding challenge to give students a fun first introduction to computer science and has become a global learning event, celebration, and awareness event.

Why computer science?

Computer science is foundational and is changing every industry on the planet. Every 21st-century student should have the opportunity to learn how to create technology. Computer science concepts also help nurture creativity and problem-solving skills to prepare students for any future career.

Economic Opportunity for All

Computing occupations are the fastest-growing, best paying, and now the largest sector of all new wages in the US. Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed.

The value of a computer science education

Students love it!

Recent surveys show that among classes students “like a lot,” computer science and engineering rank near the top—only performing arts, art, and design are higher.

Students like computer science and engineering

Vernier offers coding activities appropriate to introduce your entry-level coders to block-based languages like Scratch and LEGO® MINDSTORMS®. We also offer activities for intermediate-level coders utilizing Python® or JavaScript. For applications that require test, measurement, and control with rapid access to hardware and data insights, Vernier sensors are supported in advanced languages like LabVIEW and Arduino®.

Ready to participate with your class?

We’ve created two free coding activities utilizing Scratch to help you and your students participate in Hour of Code this year. Scratch offers colorful and modularized drag-and-drop graphical blocks that make it easy for programmers to code.

Hour of Code Activity for Entry Level Coders

In this activity students program a catch game where they can make choices on graphics and game options. The free Scratch software works on your web-connected device.

If you have an Low-g Accelerometer in your classroom, our free activity guide integrates the sensor into the Catch Game activity and your students learn how to integrate their code with hardware.

Download the Vernier Catch activity for Scratch

The Catch Game can also be completed by any classroom with no sensors needed.

Explore the Catch activity in Scratch

Hour of Code Activity for Advanced Coders

For more advanced coders, this activity combines Scratch-based coding and exploration of the ideal gas laws. Students can change multiple variables and observe changes. Results can be compared with their calculations.

Download the Ideal Gas Law Exploration activity with instructors guide

Explore the Ideal Gas Law Exploration activity in Scratch

The ‘Hour of Code™’ is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week [csedweek.org] and Code.org [code.org] to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.

SDS vs. MSDS

Dr. Elaine Nam holding up MSDS and SDS papers

What is an SDS?

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) serves the same purpose as a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). They provide a formal and consistent format, in 16 sections, that are organized in a specific order to make them easy for people to understand. The SDS also follows the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

What is the difference between an MSDS and SDS?

While the MSDS came in multiple forms, the SDS is presented in one format. Many MSDS components can be found in an SDS. New sections and types of information have been added to make SDS more useful. To be categorized as a Safety Data Sheet, it must include all 16 of the required sections and conform to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). That format consists of a specific order and set of headlines. The OSHA® QuickCard lists the 16 sections.

What is GHS?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a set of international guidelines developed by the United Nations. These guidelines were created to ensure the safe manufacturing, handling, use, disposal, and transport of hazardous materials. Their goals are

  1. Define health, physical, and environmental hazards of chemicals.
  2. Create classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria.
  3. Communicate hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Does Vernier provide an SDS?

Yes. An SDS is provided for each chemical that we ship. In 2015, Vernier adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). All of our MSDS have been updated to an SDS. The Safety Data Sheet for chemicals and solutions sold by Vernier can be found on each product’s web page and in our Product Manuals and Reference Guides.

Demystifying Ion-Selective Electrodes

Vernier Go Direct ISEs

Traditionally visual techniques are used to measure the concentration of ions in solution. Concentration is determined by comparing colors of solutions with charts and tables. Vernier ion-selective electrodes (ISEs), offer a much easier and more reliable method to measure ammonium, calcium, chloride, nitrate, and potassium ions in solution. By adhering to a few best practices, students can consistently get good data with our ion-selective electrodes.

Common customer questions about the use of ion-selective electrodes.

1. My ion-selective electrode is not reading correctly or will not calibrate.

The most common reason for this is the age of the module in the electrode. All of our ion-selective electrodes have replaceable modules, with the exception the chloride electrode.

Go Direct Nitrate ISE module

To replace the module, carefully, unscrew the end of the electrode and extract the module from the body. The replaceable module will have a date stamped on the side. The modules are warranted for 1 year past the date of purchase. Under typical classroom use, you should expect to replace the module after a year. For this reason, we recommend purchasing modules as close to the time you will use them as possible.

The chloride specific electrode uses a solid state membrane that does not need to be replaced with time. However, the response of this electrode may slow with use. Cut a 1 in2 piece of the polishing strip that came with the electrode, Thoroughly wet the dull side of the polishing strip and electrode with distilled water. Gently polish the end of the electrode to remove accumulated material that is impeding the performance. Rinse the electrode with distilled water and calibrate it.

Replacement modules can be found on our Replacements and Accessories web page.

2. My ion-selective electrode loses its calibration right after I calibrate it.

Other than age, the most common reason for an ISE to lose its calibration right away is that the calibration data was not saved to the memory of the sensor.

LabQuest ISEs

When collecting data with LabQuest ISEs (those with a white, plastic BTA connector), you can store the calibration to the sensor itself. After the calibration procedure, look for the Storage tab in the software. Click or tap the Storage tab, and select the option to “Save the Calibration to the Sensor” or “Set Sensor Calibration.” This will ensure that, after the sensor is disconnected, the most recent calibration will load automatically when the sensor is used again—even if connected to a different LabQuest or computer. For more information about calibrating and storing calibrations with various sensors and interfaces, visit How do I calibrate my sensor? Note: When collecting data with LabQuest ISEs and Graphical Analysis 4, the calibration cannot presently be stored; calibrate your ISEs each time you use them.

Go Direct ISEs

When using Go Direct ISEs and Graphical Analysis 4 app, the calibration information is automatically stored in the the memory of the sensor; there is no need to do additional steps to store the calibration.

3. My ISE is reading off from the calibration standards, even right after I calibrate it.

The response time of ISEs is much slower than most of our other sensors. This means that both the calibration and data collection must be done slowly and consistently:

  1. Make sure to soak your ISE in the high standard solution for at least 30 minutes before calibrating.
  2. When performing the calibration wait at least 90 seconds to 2 minutes in each standard solution before keeping the calibration point.
  3. When using the sensor to read the concentration of an ion in solution, make sure to wait the same amount of time you did when you calibrated the probe.

Vernier Ion-Selective Electrodes can offer another way to enhance your chemistry and water quality studies. With a little foreknowledge you will be able to do some interesting experiments with these sensors.

For more tips on using Vernier ion-selective electrodes, see General tips for using Ion Selective Electrodes (ISE).

Happy Halloween

Tips for Better Fluorescence Data

Elaine using the Fluorescence spectrometer

Fluorescence spectroscopy is a very sensitive and delicate technique. It often requires a few attempts before getting great data. In our chemistry department, we have come across a few common problems and would like to share some solutions that fix or avoid them.

While these helpful tips are designed for improving your Vernier Fluorescence/UV-VIS Spectrophotometer data, the majority of them can be used with any combination fluorescence/absorbance spectrometer.

  1. Collect an absorbance spectrum of your sample first. This will help you decide which excitation wavelength will work the best for your application. It will also help you narrow down the concentration of your sample for fluorescence measurements.
  2. If the absorbance reading where you plan to excite it is greater than 0.1 absorbance units, dilute your sample until it is around 0.1. Fluorescence is a very sensitive technique and requires samples to be more dilute than absorbance measurements. If samples are too concentrated, you may see low fluorescence emission peaks and/or distorted band shapes. This is due to the inner filter effect which is the reabsorption of emitted radiation.
  3. Try different sample time/integration times. The sample time is the time that the individual diodes (pixels) in the array are allowed to respond to light before they are “read out” and reset to zero. They respond linearly to light until they approach saturation. When students increase and decrease this value, the signal will get larger and smaller proportionally. In Logger Pro, you can adjust this value during live data collection to see the result.
  4. Change the LED Intensity. This is similar to adjusting the slit width in a typical fluorescence spectrometer. Increasing the intensity should increase the signal.
  5. Change the Samples to Average. This command sets the number of discrete spectral acquisitions that are accumulated before a spectrum is displayed. The higher the value, the better the signal to noise ratio. The drawback here is that the more samples your students are averaging, the longer they are going to have to wait for a stable spectrum.
  6. Make sure you are using Logger Pro 3.15 or newer, or LabQuest 2.4.2 or newer. In older versions, you are forced to calibrate in fluorescence mode. There is a bug during fluorescence calibration that does not honor the sample time you typed in before the calibration. This will cause spectra to look much smaller than you may anticipate. If you chose to calibrate even in later versions, you will see this bug; the short-term fix is to change the sample time after calibration.

To get acquainted with the Vernier Fluorescence/UV-VIS Spectrophotometer software and instrument, we suggest following the free lab instructions for “A Guided Inquiry Approach to Understanding Fluorescence Spectroscopy“.

The experiment walks through a lot of common sticking points and really helps students understand what they are looking at when taking fluorescence data.

Want to see more? I will be showing off the Vernier Fluorescence/UV-VIS Spectrophotometer at the Fall Regional ACS shows (MWRM, SERMACS, and SWRM) as well as at WCCTA. See a full list of the college chemistry conferences we attend »


Upcoming Conference Schedule for Vernier

Vernier booth

By participating in many regional and national trade shows each year, Vernier Software and Technology provides current and future customers with many opportunities to personally experience our products and services. It’s a great way to review the features of the latest Vernier products, or to bring any technical matters or applications questions to our attention. See our upcoming chemistry conference schedule below.

We also offer free Professional Development Workshops that include hands-on Vernier equipment training to help you integrate data-collection technology into your science curriculum.

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