Precision is everything in science. When it comes to quantitative data in any science discipline, there is a limit to how precise a measurement can be. For example, a ruler that does not have mm markings is not capable of measuring the length of an object beyond 0.1cm. However, a ruler that does have mm markings is capable of measuring to the nearest 0.01cm. While this seems like a minor difference, it changes the degree of precision when it comes to data collection dramatically. Unfortunately, when it comes to lab equipment, precision comes with a cost.
At NTHS, one of the analytical tools we use most often when it comes to data collection is an electronic balance. We currently have about 8 electronic balances, capable of measuring the mass of an object to the nearest 0.01g. These balances are typically about $250-300 each. By comparison, a balance that measures to the nearest 0.1g costs about $125.
However, due to the nature of some of our experiments, that kind of precision is just not enough and results in students not getting the most precise result that they could get. Data analysis is a core academic skill in math and science, especially with the integration of the Next Generation Science Standards. Therefore it is crucial that the data students obtain good and reliable data to ensure proper analysis for their understanding and engaging in evidence-based argumentation.
It is our hope to be able to secure funding through an Excellence in Education Grant to fund the purchase of an analytical balance. This balance will be capable of measuring mass to the nearest 0.0001g and has a load capacity of 220g. This will allow our students to make mass measurements of the smallest of samples, enabling them to do highly precise analytical processing of their data. These balances, due to their high degree of precision, are quite expensive. The funds from this grant would be used to purchase a FLINN analytical balance, one of the best economical choices, for about $1575 (most analytical balances with this amount of precision usually cost more than $2000).