Reviewed by Heather Govier
I have been looking at the Control Station Pack from Economatics. This is a complete package for using ICT for control and monitoring at KS2. The basic hardware is not much different from any other control kit but the control station software, which comes with it, is very interesting. Instead of the normal control language with statements such as ‘switch on’ or ‘if…then’ the program uses a visual method of building procedures using flowchart style icons. Each icon can be customized with a label explaining its function in any particular procedure and sets of instructions can be quickly built up by dragging instruction boxes onto the screen and drawing lines between them. Editing procedures is simply a matter of moving boxes and redrawing lines.
The control box hardware connects to the serial port of a PC and can be used to control four output devices such as bulbs and buzzers, plus two motors. On the input side, there are sockets for six digital devices such as switches and pressure pads and two analogue sensors (e.g. for light or temperature). The Pack includes a light sensor, a temperature sensor, and a simple control model with lamps, buzzer and a switch.
The software is compatible with Windows 95/98/ME/2000, and is supplied as a school site licence for use on any number of computers or networks within the purchasing school. It includes a ‘Virtual Control Station’ display, which enables children to test their control procedures on screen. This means that groups of children, or a whole class, can build, test and edit control procedures on computers with no control box attached - helping the school to make the most of their resources.
A 42-page book supplied with Control Station contains teaching materials based on the QCA Scheme of Work units 5E: Controlling Devices and 6C: Control and Monitoring. There are teachers’ notes and two sets of pupil-worksheets, which are photocopiable and are also supplied on disk in a form that allows them to be viewed on screen and printed.
The kit costs £195.00 and is available from
Economatics (Education) Ltd,
tel: 0114 281 3311
fax: 0114 243 9306
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