Biology students at BFA were able to utilize a new technology that completely changed the way they looked at a traditional science experiment. The experiment involved a glass globe, a tray with water for sealing the globe and a candle. As the candle burns under the globe, the oxygen level decreases, and is replaced with carbon dioxide. While this chemical transformation is happening, the pressure inside the jar decreases as well.

The little black box inside the dome is a PocketLab
The little black box inside the dome is a PocketLab

BFA recently acquired a PocketLab sensor that measures temperature, pressure, rotation, acceleration and magnetic fields. The sensor is small and durable and wirelessly transmits data to an iPad. The device was placed under the dome and set to measure the pressure inside so students could observe the change. It was this extra information that transformed the experiment from passive observation to fully engaged participation and experimentation.


Students observed the pressure drop, but it didn’t drop in the consistent manner that the students had predicted. Students were curious about the why the changes was so inconsistent and began to offer theories and adjustments to change the outcome. Was the table that held the experiment responsible for the fluctuations? They moved the experiment and found the changes were less consistent than before. “The new technology in the form of the PocketLab changed the experiment and gave the students the opportunity to engage in the process with immediate real data to support their predictions” said teacher-observer Mark Ladue.

This was our first experiment with the PocketLab. With its compact size, ease of use and ability to measure a variety of phenomena, the possibilities to provide inquiry based learning seem endless.

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