The Pasco Wireless Light Sensor: See the Light. And Measure it too.

Pasco Wireless Light Sensor

Within an understated white plastic box is found a dynamic and versatile sensor that effectively measures many forms of light, and gives the science class a peek into how we learn about the universe we live in. Yes, the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor could easily go unnoticed in the science room’s box of technology. It would be understandable to think that this is just another sensor designed to fit into a lineup of other sensors. In fact there really isn’t much on the sensor to indicate just how powerful and versatile this particular sensor really is. There is only one button, the on/off switch. There is a tripod socket, a few words here and there printed on the case, and two apertures, a short black tube for spot measurements, and a flat white circle for ambient measuring. Like I said, uneventful.

 

But like most amazing gadgets these days, the real show begins when the device is paired with its software. So this little box measuring not much more than 2 x 4 x 7.5 cm actually has the capability to measure:

-Red light

-Green light

-Blue light

-White light

-Illuminance in lux

-Illuminance in lumens per square meter

-PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) in sunlight

-Solar Irradiance in watts per square meter

-Ultra-violet A (UVA)

-Ultra-violet B (UVB)

-Calculate the ultra-violet index (UVI)

Further, the sensor can be so simple in appearance because the data leaves the sensor at the speed of light (in air) traveling over low energy Bluetooth radio waves to any receiving computer, tablet or phone. With a range of about 10m and a easily replaceable CR2032 battery, the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor is a about as perfect a light tool as a teacher can imagine. And speaking of light, it’s pretty much the only thing we get from the universe beyond the earth besides meteorites, solar wind, and sample return space missions, and that list is pretty short.

Pasco Wireless Light Sensor

There is an abundance of concepts to study and light to measure so it follows that there is no shortage of traditional and innovative experiments for any grade level. The Pasco Wireless Light Sensor can easily measure the presence, absence and quantity of a handful of different kinds of light. And with each measurement, there is an ever expanding realm of possibilities, variations, and real-world analogs.

For instance, measuring sunlight is an obvious use of the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor, but wait, there’s more. That same sunlight can be reflected off surfaces, filtered through an endless number materials, fabrics, lotions, and films. UV through clothing can be measured with the fabric dry and wet. Sunscreens can be tested. Sunglasses, auto glass, and windows can be explored. And all of the above can be refined further by applying variables of distance and angles.

A bonus about the size of this sensor is that it happens to be the right size to fit into cell phone cradle or tripod mount. This fact allows the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor to be used effectively in existing and handy stands that can aim the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor as needed.

Pasco Wireless Light Sensor

Color is fair game for the sensor with the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor’s unique ability (especially for the $55 price tag) to measure four colors of light…well three colors and their combination totaling up to white. The quantity of light moving through a filter, say sunglasses, is rarely across a uniform distribution of visible wavelengths. While we often worry about the amount of UV and IR in our sun shades, there are implications for colors. If sunglasses change colors or make them look similar, say green and red, then horizontal traffic lights could be read backwards. Another example is that sunglasses used around water may need to filter much more blue light than sunglasses used for other sports.

The inverse square law can be verified using little more than a meter stick, light source, and of course the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor.

Pasco Wireless Light Sensor

Graphic of the inverse square law. Source: Wikipedia.

Two different apertures allow the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor to measure ambient light and narrower directional light sensor. The ambient sensor measures UVA, UVB, and UV index. The spot sensor measures general light level in several units, as well as relative intensity of red, green and blue light, or all three together as white light.

Bluetooth 4 is the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor communication method with iOS and Android mobile devices, and Mac and PC computers. A list of compatible hardware and software is listed here.

By removing the cables and going wireless, it’s possible to put the sensor in places where it might not be safe to be within the usual meter of wire, such as out in the sun for an hour. The Pasco Wireless Light Sensor can also be set up as a lab station where students log into the sensor to gather their data, then move on to the next station.

Pasco Wireless Light Sensor

The Pasco Wireless Light Sensor is an excellent tool to teach science, and to do science. It’s tiny form factor and huge set of capabilities, but what makes it even more of a go-to solution is that the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor talks to smartphones putting a tremendous amount of science lab into a single pants pocket.

Light is an amazing thing. And even though its wildly prolific in the known universe, it’s Wikipedia entry is still less than half the length of that of Michael Jackson’s entry. Or about the same as an avocado. But whether  you think light is a particle, a wave, a combination explained by electromagnetic, or quanta, or likely all (or none) of the above, light is an important aspect of almost every scientific subject. Which, given that line of reasoning, the Pasco Wireless Light Sensor just might be the most universal sensor when learning science.

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