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NCEES-Approved Calculator Review, by SurveyTek.comApril is almost upon us. Given that the National Council of Examiners of Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) professional exams are coming up, I thought I would give a brief comparison of the calculator models that are approved by the NCEES to be used in the exam room. Not just any calculator is permitted; it must be on the NCEES Approved Calculator List. The following review is written with land surveyors in mind, along with the upcoming Fundamentals of Surveying (FE) and Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exams.Texas Instruments TI-30X modelsPrice range: $10 - $25The TI-30X calculators are some of the most available and affordable calculators that are on the NCEES-approved list. The basic models can be found anywhere from drug stores to big box stores. Some of the favorable features found on these calculators are the statistics functions, fraction conversions, angle conversions, easy algebraic mode entry, and scrolling 10-16 digit displays. Trigonometric and algebraic functions are done well and easily accessed. Some slight differences in the models are explained in the following:· TI-30Xa – battery operated. Easy degrees-minute-seconds angle input/output and operations. One of the cheapest models.· TI-30X IIs – solar powered. Easy degrees-minute-seconds angle input/output and operations. One of the cheapest and most common models.· TI-30X IIb – battery powered version of the IIs model.· TI-30XS Multiview – solar powered. Uses a larger display to allow the input/output to look like textbook entries. However, simple angle functions are buried in menus. Most expensive 30X model.Some disadvantages include the meager 5 variables to store numbers and the complete lack of programming. All of the TI-30X models are basic calculators, having limited capabilities best suited to common math operations and “back-up calculator” status. Because of the lack of programming capability, the user is forced to compute intermediate calculations and equations, which must be memorized or referenced.Texas Instruments TI-36X modelsPrice range: $20 - $25TI-36X models are only slightly more advanced than the 30X models. The availability of the 36X’s are also slightly less (the 36X II model is only available online). The upgrades include physical constants and more advanced statistics. The common operators, trigonometric and algebraic functions, and algebraic entry mode are still preserved from the 30X models. Some slight differences in the models are explained in the following:· TI-36X II – battery operated. Very similar to the TI-30X IIs. Easy degrees-minute-seconds angle input/output and operations. However, it is only available to purchase online.· TI-36X Solar – solar powered. Newer design accentuates statistics and physics functions, but it buries the angle conversions in menus.Disadvantages for the 36X models can possibly keep this series from being of any real use in the exam room. The TI-36X II is only available online and the small feature upgrade does not justify the price increase or shipping expense. The TI-36X Solar saps the advantages found in previously mentioned models by burying common functions in menus and the price begins to approach more capable calculators. Both of the TI-36X models have the same lack of memory for storing numbers (the Solar only has 3) and complete lack of programming capability. Because of the lack of programming capability, the user is forced to compute intermediate calculations and equations, which must be memorized or referenced.Casio FX-115 modelsPrice range: $15 - $18Casio’s FX-115 offer a bump up in technology over the Texas Instrument models for a reasonable price. The Casios can be found at most big box stores without much trouble. Both FX-115 models offer standard algebraic notation, calculus operations, basic trigonometric and algebraic functions that are done well, advanced statistics operations, and easy degrees-minutes-seconds conversions and operations. A big step over the TI models is the equation solver feature. Both versions are solar powered. Some slight differences in the models are explained in the following:· FX-115MS Plus – Basic display· FX-115ES – Larger display with “textbook” style notation.The FX-115ES is an easy choice for those working extensively in academics: namely calculus and fractions. However, NCEES surveyor examinees will have a hard time taking advantage of all of the FX-115’s strengths. The same disadvantages the TI models have plague the FX-115 lineup as well. The meager memory only allows the user to store 6 numbers into variables. And again, the FX-115 models have a complete lack of programming. The lack of programming capability not only increases computation time, but also limits the user from customizing the calculator to specific engineering disciplines (i.e. land surveying).Hewlett-Packard HP 33s modelPrice range: $40 - $50Hewlett-Packard models are the superior choice of any NCEES-approved calculators.The design of the calculator is a departure from classic HP design, but is well built and comes with a pouch case. The HP calculators are also the only NCEES-approved calculators to have both algebraic and RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) modes of operation. It is battery-powered. All trigonometric and statistic functions are present and easily accessed. Worth noting is the dd.mmss format of displaying angular degrees (dd) minutes (mm) and seconds (ss).The HP 33s boasts powerful built-in functions, along with significant memory (31 KB). The memory capacity is important: Not only does it allow the user to store 26 variables (A-Z), but it also allows for programming. Programming on the HP 33s is simple to learn because it uses common operations. The programs created are stored into any register letter (A-Z), and can be executed easily. Some features of the HP 33s programming are: ability to display messages, user input prompts for variables, and vast room for program lines. The programming, of course, lends itself to surveying applications very well, including coordinate geometry, field work calculations, and stormwater design.The HP 33s also sports a handy solver function that allows the user to store equations into memory, then solve for any variable without re-writing the equation. This is very useful for stormwater design computations that require iteration.While more expensive than TI or Casio models, the HP calculators offer much more flexible and usable features for use on the NCEES exams. Given the importance of professional exams, the extra money spent is a good investment.Land surveying programs for the HP 33s can be found at www.SurveyTek.com. There you can find information about the HP33s SurvPak surveying software package, along with programming service and calculator purchase options.Hewlett-Packard HP 35s modelPrice range: $60 - $70The HP 35s calculator is simply the best calculator available to use in NCEES exams. Like the 33s, the battery-powered 35s calculator has algebraic and RPN modes, built-in functions, equation solver function, and plenty of memory. Again, the memory allows the user to store variables and take advantage of programming. A slight upgrade in processor power allows the 35s to do much more options when programming, giving the calculator the power that justifies its price increase over the 33s.The design of the HP 35s is more classic HP style, still well built, and comes with a nice clamshell, zippered case. HP 35s users will find all the necessary trigonometric and statistic functions well represented, a useful 2-line display, and a well-placed (but crowded) keypad.The programming style is just like the 33s: user input prompts, displays messages, intuitive programming style. This all lends itself very well to land surveying programs on the HP 35s. The equation solver works great, allowing the user to store equations in memory and solve them later for any variable without re-writing the equation.The price is the highest out of all NCEES-approved calculators, but the extra money spent is a good investment when it comes to professional licensure.Land surveying programs for the HP 35s can be found at www.SurveyTek.com. There you can find information about the HP35s SurvPak surveying software package, along with programming service and calculator purchase options.-Justin @ SurveyTek

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