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Debian Linux powers science education device

Mar 26, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 34 views

An education supplies company has announced a portable science education computer that runs embedded Debian Linux. Pasco says it designed its sensor-equipped Spark Science Learning System for collaborative science experiments by students, for example measuring conductivity or tracking temperature changes.

(Click for larger view of Pasco's Spark)

Based on a Marvell PXA270 processor clocked at 320MHz, the 6.7 x 5.5 x 1.7-inch device is equipped with 1GB flash, a 5.7-inch VGA display, and two USB ports. The Spark includes dedicated temperature and voltage sensors and two expansion slots for plugging in optional Pasco scientific sensors. The embedded software includes about 60 guided inquiry labs said to integrate educational content, data collection, and analysis wizards, along with charting and assessment features.

Spark with one internal sensor in use and one optional sensor installed in top-mounted expansion slot

The following are some of the key features of the Spark system:

  • Processor — Marvell PXA270, 320Mhz
  • Memory — 1GB flash memory
  • Display — 5.7-inch 640 x 480 color touchscreen
  • USB — 2 x USB ports
  • Input — 2 x start/stop buttons
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 5.5 x 1.7 inches (17 x 14 x 4.5 cm)
  • Weight: 21 oz (595 g)
  • Power — Lithium polymer battery or AC (AC adapter included)
  • Sensor ports — 2 x internal (temperature and voltage); 2 x expansion slots for Pasco Pasport sensors
  • Operating system — embedded Linux (Debian or “custom”)

Spark (rear)

Stated David Thornburg, Ph.D., Executive Director at the science-education consultancy, the Thornburg Center, “The Spark system brings concrete measurement to students in a way that stimulates their creativity and interest in pursuing science as an activity, not as sterile writings in a musty textbook.”

Spark educational screen


Shipping in the fall, the Spark Science Learning System is selling for an introductory price of $300 through Aug. 31. More information may be available here.

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