My Molecularium is a unique app from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Nanotechnology Center that introduces young chemistry students to some of the most relevant molecules in our world, ranging from water and hydrogen peroxide, through standard organic molecules, to such impressive structures as caffeine, nicotine, and adrenaline. Players are given the basic chemical structure and challenged to form the molecule by firing the appropriate atoms at the partial molecule in space. Once the molecule is built, the app gives information about it, explaining why it is important and how it interacts in life or the environment.
The app teaches students not only using chemical formulas (for example, the familiar H2O) but also introducing the reading and comprehension of skeletal structures (such as those taught in organic chemistry). It is possible for students blindly to fire atoms at the molecules but willing learners will acquire a better understanding of chemistry by playing through the app.
The app reads all directions and the completed molecules’ information aloud and will not allow users to skip through — an advantage for students who are more prone to skipping the content and going straight to game play. But our tester-players reading at a quicker pace or interested in repeating a level out of curiosity found the feature a little tedious. With the next version, we’d like to see the developers improve upon the aim-and-fire system and add a means of accessing the already-built molecules as a way of reviewing the report, rather than requiring the user to rebuild the molecule using the firing system every time.
Despite our wish list, the concept of the app is genuinely original. It educates at a level that is appropriate for middle and high school students, allowing them to practice understanding molecular structure and to become familiar with some truly intriguing chemicals that are part of our world.
Emily Crawford ©2018 Parents’ Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master’s in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.