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SDSU chemistry labs chosen to test, evaluate new gadget

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Ron Hirko with Vernier's new and improved drop counter.
Ron Hirko with Vernier's new and improved drop counter.
BROOKINGS, SD (KELO-AM) Out of all the universities Vernier does business with, South Dakota State University was chosen to test its redesigned device called the drop counter.Being selected as one of four demonstration sites for Vernier’s new technology, indicates the high quality program at State.

Vernier Software & Technology designs and manufactures data loggers, sensors and graphing analysis software for students and educators around the country.Ron Hirko, a chemistry and biochemistry lecturer and coordinator for the general chemistry and chemistry survey laboratories at SDSU, was a contributing reason the new device was designed.

Chemistry and biochemistry students use a gadget called a drop counter to measure the milliliters of a fluid that are expelled into a beaker.The device counts each drop of liquid using an internal light sensor, then automatically transmits the drop count to a LabQuest mini computer. The LabQuest graphs and stores the data for future analysis.The chemistry and biochemistry labs had 36 of the old drop counters, 24 for the Brookings campus, and 12 for the University Center in Sioux Falls.“We use them all the time in many different class sections,” said Hirko. The Vernier Drop Counter is the black device attached to the center of the stand. Its internal light sensors count the drops of liquid as they pass from tube to beaker, and then transmit the data to the LabQuest mini computer—the blue and white device behind.

Hirko, his students and other professors were having major issues with the previous Vernier drop counters. When liquid hit the side of the drop counter and entered the device, the internal electronics became corroded and the units did not operate correctly. “We were sending the counters back to Vernier all the time, and they’d fix them, send them back—it was never-ending cycle,” said Hirko. “I got along well with Jack Randall at Vernier, and every time I called or emailed him, I asked if they were revising the drop counter, or improving the technology.“I was kind of hounding them on it,” said Hirko. “I said once you’ve got a new one, I want to evaluate it, and Jack said ‘you’re on the list.’ So, last semester I got a call from Vernier and they said they were sending me their newest prototype.“I was kind of amazed because I know Vernier does business with a lot of huge universities,” said Hirko, about being chosen to test the drop counter. “It shows that they respect what were are doing here in our program.”The redesigned drop counters were recently launched for mass markets, and SDSU purchased 24 to replace the others. According to Hirko, the new drop counters work beautifully, and students do not have the difficulty they did before. “Students get a thrill seeing the red light blink for every drop,” said Hirko. “The new counters are very reliable, and show some high quality data.”SDSU students use more than just Vernier’s drop counters in lab. “Since 2010 we’ve been using Vernier’s LabQuests, pressure transducers, visible spectrometers, conductivity cells, platinum REDOX electrodes, and more,” said Hirko. “It’s really an honor they chose us to pilot their redesigned product.” 

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