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Chemistry Students Utilize Mathematical Software to Design a New Educational Tool

By Patrick Drennan
On March 8, 2013

As technology has become more sophisticated and accessible, educators have been implementing advancements in technology to aid in their efforts to help students learn. Here on campus, an interesting new use of technology is changing the way students learn Chemistry.

Seven students of Nelson DeLeon, Ph.D., associate dean for Arts and Sciences and chair of the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy have created an interactive learning tool known as the "Wolfram Demonstration Project."

As a part of his Physical Chemistry course last Fall, DeLeon challenged his students to learn Mathematica - software that enables researchers to solve and illustrate complex mathematical manipulations - and apply it to a chemistry related problem.

After getting their feet wet with a series of homework assignments, the students decided to use it to create a visual tool to help beginning chemistry students understand a basic chemistry concept known as "limiting reagents." The students built a computer model that users can manipulate to help them visualize the effects of a limiting reagent during the formation of a product, such as water formed from hydrogen and oxygen, given varying amounts of reactants.

This educational model built in the program, along with potentially many others, could help students overcome the initial difficulties in learning concepts that are necessary to understand in order to move on.

The students' project, "Limiting Reagent for the Reaction of Hydrogen and Oxygen to Form Water," has an earned a permanent place on the Mathematica website since their submission. This accomplishment has also set a precedent for new types of learning on the site, as previously it has been dominated by fields like physics and mathematics, having nothing pertaining to the applications of Mathematica to chemistry concepts.

Tools like Mathematica are quickly becoming necessary applications to understand in order to join mainstream science. This trend can be highly beneficial for many students in that it takes out the mathematical tedium of projects and facilitates a greater degree of creativity, making participating in science a much more accessible engagement for students who aren't as strong in math.

The team members responsible for this great new educational supplement are David Dimitroff, Christopher Hilbrich, Igbal Michael, Nicholas Miljevic, Nabeela Mohideen, Sameera Raziuddin, and Kelly Stanley.

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