ModelAR's Next Step

August 20, 2019
Company & TechnologyGianna Manchester

Since releasing our newest app, ModelAR, at the ACS meeting in Orlando in April, we are excited to expand the app’s features in the coming months.  In preparation for this, we recently reached out to both high school and university chemistry instructors in search of feedback on ModelAR to learn what the users want.  Based on responses from 137 instructors, we compiled the results of the survey and are using the data to guide ModelAR’s next steps.

First we asked how you have used traditional model sets. For general chemistry, 120  instructors said they have used model sets, most commonly for VSEPR and the geometry and bonding of molecules. In organic chemistry, 49 instructors said they have used model sets most commonly for stereochemistry, isomers, and the structure of organic molecules.

Physical model sets have been a staple in the teaching of chemistry for years, but they are not always feasible to teach some concepts including bond angle changes, sigma and pi bonding, and hybridization. Although some instructors indicated that they use models to demonstrate the stereochemistry of reactions, others identified a model set’s inability to illustrate a reaction mechanism. This was also a suggested feature to add to ModelAR. To that, I suggest checking out our Mechanisms app.  Although it does not depict stereochemistry, it focuses on the movement of electrons within a mechanism with the ease that comes with using ModelAR. 

Other suggestions of features to add included more atoms (specifically with higher coordination numbers), the ability to see orbitals and lone pairs and electron density including polarity and dipoles, as well as specific measurements such as those of bond angles, length, and strength.  Others wanted to be able to view multiple molecules on the screen at the same time and even superimpose them.  There were also multiple requests for modules and an assessment mode within ModelAR which is something we will definitely be working on as we enhance the app.

All of these features are possible with a digital model set like ModelAR.  In addition to its greater possibilities than a traditional model set, instructors identified other advantages.  ModelAR’s ease of use was seen as a big plus since users can seamlessly construct molecules without fumbling around with and losing pieces.  The app is also portable and easily accessible for students unlike bulky, expensive model kits.  Additionally, students enjoy using technology, and a digital tool like ModelAR allows instructors to demonstrate key concepts to a class that they may not be able to do with a traditional model set, especially in a big lecture hall. 

Although users of a digital model set do not have the tactile aspect of physical models and may still struggle to “see” in 3D on a 2D screen, a digital model set also has the possibility of working in augmented reality (AR) and even virtual reality (VR).  About half of the instructors were familiar with AR and VR and were able to identify advantages and applications of using them.  Many mentioned that it would help students better visualize the molecules as AR and VR can be more immersive as they bring the molecules to life with a 3D projection.  This could be used to view and manipulate larger molecules as well.  One instructor even said that AR would be extremely helpful if paired with a textbook where students scan a molecule on the page and can then view it in AR. 

After analyzing the responses, we have gained a better understanding of what users like and don’t like about digital model sets such as ModelAR, and what they would like to see added to the app.  As we work to enhance ModelAR’s features in the coming months, we will take all of these points into consideration.  For those of you who responded to our survey, thank you! ModelAR will be better because of you. 

You can see the list of questions from the survey, as well as the full results report here.

To see the full infographic visit this page.

Co- Author

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