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Electronic Resources for Schools.

This section provides concise, original reviews of new or important hardware, software, websites, and electronic media that relate to the K-12 curriculum. All reviews are written by practicing educators who, in most cases, have used the software in a school environment. Where grouped into broad, age-appropriate categories, these categories should not be viewed as prescriptive. To facilitate "comparison shopping," these reviews are highly structured. Reviewers prepare a "report card" based on a five-star scale.

***** Highly Recommended
 **** Recommended
  *** Good
   ** OK in some cases
    * Don't consider

ExoTrex 2

Company: Dig-It! Games, 7801 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814; 301-652-3248;;

Price: A single-seat, 1-year license is $5.99. Contact the company by email from the link on the site to ask about pricing for classrooms.

Audience: ExoTrex 2 was developed for grades 8 to 10.

Format: ExoTrex 2 and all games from Dig-It! are web-based educational video games, useable with all browsers for immersive learning.

System Requirements: ExoTrex 2 is compatible on most recent HTML5 browsers; has been tested on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari (Mac computers); and is Chrome-book-compatible. It's also compatible with browsers on some mobile devices, including iPad Series 3 (not series 2 or iPhone) and some Android tablets.

Description: Exotrex 2 is a scientific space adventure game for middle schoolers. In the game, students try to find a new home for humanity since life on Earth has become unsustainable due to population growth and climate change. An open-ended solar system map and the Distance Simulator make the game useable for demonstration purposes, or students can be assigned to explore on their own with a couple of classroom computers or in a computer lab.

Installation       A
Content/Features   A
Ease of Use        A
Product Support    A

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: Getting ready to use the game is a matter of purchasing a license and going to the portal on the Dig-It! Games site after considering how to use in it in specific classroom situations. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Dig-It! has developed several games that use student interest in gaming to teach educational concepts in STEM content areas, aligned to Common Core and other standards. They are well-thought-out, nicely designed, and effective.

Exotrex is based on a story told in episodes, with each episode a standalone game that can be played by itself. The basic story is that life on Earth is no longer sustainable; the student mission is to find a new home for humanity.

Gameplay begins when the players arrive at the Mars orbital station, putting the astronaut training from ExoTrex 1 into practice. ExoTrex 2 explores an in-depth solar system map to teach students about the planets, moons, and asteroids as well as their relative distances from each other. The solar system map hosts three missions to explore Mercury, Venus, and Titan.

Puzzles and problem-solving exercises are used to engage students in active thinking and deeper learning while building college and career readiness across STEM content areas such as physical sciences, planetary sciences, and mathematics. The process improves skills such as literacy, analytical thinking, and problem solving.

To complete the missions, students balance speed, thrust, and acceleration while navigating gravitational fields to successfully land rovers on their chosen planet or moon. They remotely navigate their rovers to collect ground and atmospheric samples and later analyze them for their chemical compositions.

Students also learn about the planetary characteristics of each destination and take observational notes while working through realistic, life-threatening emergencies. Lesson plans and student worksheets are available for free download on the ExoTrex 2 site. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: ExoTrex 2 is intuitive and easy to use, especially for literate computer users, with online support. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Support is available as needed and includes some teacher lesson plans and student work sheets. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Education in general has not taken advantage of student interest in games to utilize the tremendous teaching potential to be found there. Dig-It! Games has done some excellent work with this, and I highly recommend ExoTrex 2, a quality educational game, to all educators for use in 8th to 10th grade classrooms, for demonstration purposes at least, or on a couple of classroom computers or in labs. Highly Recommended

Reviewer: Charles Doe is a longtime teacher who spent 10 years as an elementary media specialist in Hastings Area Schools in Michigan. He has written articles and reviews for Internet@Schools for more than 20 years. His email address is

Digitai Sandbox

Company: SparkFun Electronics, 6333 Dry Creek Parkway, Niwot, CO 88583; phone: 303-284-0979; fax: 303-443-0048;

Price: Pricing is available online or by calling 303-284-0979.

Audience: Middle school through college

Format: The Digital Sandbox Board and additional science kits can be purchased online at Digital Sandbox utilizes a board format powered by an interactive microcontroller.

System Requirements: Arduino software needs to be installed and set up on the user's computer. Arduino 1.6.9 software is available for Windows and MacOS X.

Description: Digital Sandbox utilizes software and hardware to complete scientific investigations as students explore the world of electronics and inventions.

Installation       A
Content/Features   A
Ease of Use        A
Product Support    A

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: Arduino software needs to be downloaded from a ZIP format and then extracted. In order to access the full set of services, the user is required to open an account with SparkFun and select a password. Installation: A

Content/Features: Digital Sandbox is an electronic board that enables the user to complete 13 experiments: The user can program the items on the board to blink and dim lights, mix colors, loop, detect sound, and more. The board provides the opportunity to create a serial calculator, reaction tester, and analog slide and to make an automatic night-light.

Digital Sandbox is designed to be used in three formats: Supplemental Project Model, Makerspace Model, and the Curriculum Model.

The Project Model is added to the curriculum with electronic products through the Inventor Space. It can be used in any classroom--science, physics, engineering, art, humanities, math, English, and social studies. Projects use step-by-step instructions, and students can upload and share projects.

The Makerspace Model is flexible and can be used on a mobile cart, in a classroom, a lab, or in a checkout box from the media center. Projects are integrated into lessons.

The Curriculum Model can be implemented for a semester or yearlong electronics engineering course. Content is provided for a 90-minute class period for one semester. Lectures, workshops, and design projects are included.

An additional feature, called the Digital Sandbox Add-On, provides three additional experiments: Opto-Theremin, Serial Motoring, and Servo Sweeper. Content/ Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Online tutorials, training, and curriculum materials help the user navigate the Digital Sandbox. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: An FAQ link on the website features commonly asked general and technical questions. Support is also available by phone (303-284-0979) or by email ( There is a Technical Assistance page. SFE Forums and a blog provide community support. Live chat is available to users. Real-time conversations with SparkFun employees and customers are provided through a connection to Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The Digital Sandbox is a hands-on, engaging tool for young adults who are interested in science and engineering. The 13 different experiments use real-world inputs of light and temperature sensors. LEDs, motors, and other outputs. The user uses ArduBlock, which is a graphical programming language for Arduino. Tutorials give instructions for how to install and use these tools.

Digital Sandbox is like an inventor's kit with all components included on a single board. It requires some learning on the software features, but once the user feels comfortable with the tools, experiments are easy to complete.

Curriculum, training, and online tutorials assist the user in easy-to-understand directions for completing a variety of scientific investigations.

Digital Sandbox encourages critical thinking, creativity, and hands-on engagement. Collaboration, curiosity, communication, and problem solving are all a result of this product. I highly recommend it for students interested in learning more about electronics and engineering. Highly Recommended

Reviewer: Sally Finley is an educational consultant based in Coral Springs, Fla. Her email address is

MATLAB Primary and Secondary School Suite

Company: Math Works, Inc., 3 Apple Hill Drive, Natick, MA 01760; 506-647-7000;

Price: 30-day free trial. Call 506-647-7000 for license pricing information.

Audience: High school and college level

Format: MATLAB is set up as a toolbox that has been professionally developed, tested, and documented to develop algorithms, analyze and visualize data, and perform numerical computation.

System Requirements: MATLAB can be installed on Windows, Linux, or Macintosh:

* Windows X, 2GB RAM (4-6GB recommended), no graphics card

* Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, Intel or AMD X86-64 processor, 2GB RAM; hardware-accelerated graphics card with 1 GPU is recommended.

Description: MATLAB provides a language and interactive environment to develop algorithms, analyze and visualize data, and perform numeric computation.

Installation       A
Content/Features   A
Ease of Use        A
Product Support    A

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: Software is available online and easy to install. Installation: A

Content/Features: The user can import data from files, other applications, or external devices to explore and analyze data through built-in engineering and mathematical functions, plots, and visualizations.

Data is accessed through databases, financial data servers of historical market data, internet, OPC servers, and File I/O, including text, spreadsheet, XML, CDF/HDF, image, audio, video, and geospatial and web content.

The Image Labeler app provides an interactive way to label ground truth data in a sequence of images.

MATLAB supports sensor, image, video, telemetry, binary, and other real-time formats. It offers a full set of statistics and machine learning functionality using high-speed processing of large datasets. Code and results can be shared and published.

Using the MATLAB code, Analytics is a tool to analyze text, audio, images or videos. The Neural Network Toolbox gives added support for complex architecture.

MATLAB Mobile works on MathWorks Cloud.

Simulink is a graphical environment for simulation and model-based design of multi-domain dynamic and embedded systems.

MATLAB and Simulink Student Suite include MATLAB, Simulink, and 10 of the most widely used add-on products for control systems, signal and image processing, statistics, optimization, and symbolic math. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Product support is available online. A maintenance service can be purchased. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: MathWorks Software Maintenance Service includes the latest updates provided twice a year and worldwide technical support from specialized engineers. Support is available for installation and access to new features during the term of the license. Online support resources include MATLAB Answers. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The language of MATLAB is fundamental to engineering and science problems and is a great addition to helping prepare students for the real world. The tools are those used by professional engineers and scientists in fields such as aerospace, automotive, financial services, and biotech. Its high-speed capabilities make it possible to analyze large datasets. MATLAB integrates into enterprise systems, cluster, and clouds and can be targeted to real-time embedded hardware.

Using MATLAB reduces development time and eliminates steps in proving algorithm concepts.

Development time is reduced from the development of algorithms by proving concepts in simulation and over-the-air tests. With the growth of smart devices, design teams face the challenge of creating more intelligent products and applications.

Models can be reused to speed up design iterations and next-generation projects. Design problems can be eliminated before moving to implementation.

MATLAB and Simulink streamline testing and verification through their test harnesses. Fewer designs and defect-free implementations can be achieved on the first attempt.

I highly recommend this product for engineering and IT teams who are learning how to build advanced analytics systems providing predictive maintenance, telematics, and sensors. Highly Recommended

Reviewer: Sally Finley is an educational consultant based in Coral Springs, Fla. Her email address is

Compiled by Victor Rivero News of the latest technology products for K-12 may be sent directly to Victor Rivero
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Author:Rivero, Victor
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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