Valiant Technology Ltd

Feedback Form


Richard Watkin of Broadstone Middle School was asked by the Dorset Technology team to evaluate the Valiant Control Console. Here is his report.

Frog Trap. A pressure pad inside the box activates
the motor to wind up the drawbridge.

In the Beginning
We have always had a problem of space and time in our workshop, probably like most other middle schools. "Doing" control work with children meant bringing in a couple of BBC masters on trolleys, bolting on the Phobox with trailing wires everywhere and, in the session, getting a group or two through the work. A bit of a headache especially when the computers were needed by someone else, or the hardware had to be stored in the dusty environment of the workshop. You didn't have the room for them in the first place and your aim was to get all 150 7th years through a piece of control work during the year. You would have liked 6 Archimedes with Phoboxes, the money to buy them, a dust free zone in which to operate, the time to make the models and then control them... In reality you never did much control work, it wasn't worth the hassle!

And then came the Valiant Control Console, the size of an A4 note pad, with its understandable keyboard features, simple screw in terminal ports, Logo-based language, inputs, outputs, stepper motor drives and a counter facility. So how did the teachers take to it? And the pupils?

There's no screen, no edit facility; programming has to be worked out on paper beforehand. Having to write down the programming was a good learning-familiarisation exercise. If one enters a bad command, the Console sends out a warning signal, the last command can also be deleted. If the program is written as a series of procedures then, on discovering an error, only the procedure needs to be rewritten. The Console will not store your programs, but, with the interface kit, they can be downloaded into a BBC or Nimbus and viewed or printed at a later date and then reloaded into the Console. It has 8 output and 8 input ports, commands can be repeated, or made into procedures. The accompanying booklet is clear and precise with its information, directions and ideas - it is very user friendly.

Level Crossing. The train has a magnet underneath.
There are reed switches either side of the motorised barriers.

I worked with a group of year 7 children on a topic of barriers and traps over 9 afternoons. Work included frog/fox/mouse traps, level crossings, carparks and customs posts. When the children had built their models, including the electronic components, an explanation of the Control Console was given by myself, along with some sample programs. The children were able to test their electronic components through the Console with simple programming before they embarked on writing procedures. Once shown the way they quickly picked up the language and wrote successful programs (help from teacher was given when motors needed to be reversed). On having successfully caught an animal or viewed the approach of the train, children were keen to refine their programming or develop it. Some children added a sound dimension to their work, others worked on timing. They enjoyed themselves.

My colleague who also used the Console with a year 7 group doing similar work was pleased with its capabilities. An ex-member of the IT team was also suitably impressed. I had the Console over the summer holidays and was so pleased with its performance that on returning to school I ordered 5 more (no, I didn't buy the company!) A colleague at Hytec (Hertfordshire) who was also evaluating the Console, gave it the thumbs up too.

The Console is small enough to be transported and stored easily to allow it to be used anywhere in the school and is good value for money. It has enabled children working in groups of three to have access to a Control Console with no waiting or queueing. Time can be well spent. It is a tool that can be used at the most simple level to the most complex.

Don't judge it on its appearance, see what it can do...

  © 2004. Amethyst Consultancy Ltd.