We present a study of automation in the school chemical Inquiry based laboratory. Simple computer-controlled devices for automation of basic manual operations were constructed and integrated with the data collection and management systems of the Fourier-Systems Inc. in students' lab sessions. We examined characteristics of learning in the new automated laboratory environment, evaluated educational outcomes and students' attitudes.
One of the advantages to automation is faster processing, but it is not necessarily faster than a human operator. Repeatability and reproducibility are improved as automated systems as less likely to have variances in reagent quantities and less likely to have variances in reaction conditions. Typically productivity is increased since human constraints, such as time constraints, are no longer a factor. Efficiency is generally improved as robots can work continuously and reduce the amount of reagents used to perform a reaction. Also there is a reduction in material waste. Automation can also establish safer working environments since hazardous compounds do not have to be handled. Additionally automation allows staff to focus on other tasks that are not repetitive.