Augmented reality atom kit makes hands-on chemistry easier to grasp

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The Happy Atoms mobile app can recognize up to 10,000 different molecules and present information about formula, composition, structure, properties, usage, and even hazards

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Growing kids tend to repeat all sorts of colorful language heard while at school, yet there's one particular C-word that causes some parents to feel a special type of dread. Chemistry. A new teaching tool raising funds on Indiegogo adds an innovative twist to the traditional chemistry model kit in a way that should make the subject more accessible and enjoyable for parents and students alike. Happy Atoms combines augmented reality with a physical product to educate students about the wonderful world of molecules.

Chemistry model kits are useful for individuals who respond to visual and kinesthetic learning styles. For years, such tinker-toy-type sets have allowed teachers and students to get hands-on experience with molecular construction. But one limitation of experimental play outside the specific instructions is not knowing what the parts are actually making.

Happy Atoms is designed to teach chemistry in a more intuitive way by presenting atoms with existing electrons and bonding sites. The set's labeled spheres are equipped with rubbery, metal-tipped arms (representing valence electrons) that attach to magnetic dimples (representing available sites for electrons in the atom's outermost electron shell), which help minimize the guesswork experienced by traditional kits.

Kids can connect elements together to freely form thousands of different types of molecules. But it's the Happy Atoms mobile app (available for iOS and likely Android) that means to enhance the whole learning experience. The app is designed with image recognition technology so that a mobile device's camera can scan and identify the molecules that have been built.

What may start as a random combining of various atoms turns into a game of discovery. The app can recognize up to 10,000 different molecules and present information about formula, composition, structure, properties, usage, and even hazards. Not only does the app keep track of progress and "collected" molecules, but it provides guided quests to explore and learn more.

The Happy Atoms mobile app also offers over 50 different educational experiments, an informational periodic table of elements, and step-by-step assembly instructions for each of the known molecules. This kind of structured learning playtime, seen recently in the Lego Education WeDo 2.0 robotic kit, is intended to spark interest in an often-avoided subject.

The team behind the Happy Atoms Augmented Reality Chemistry Set has just launched an Indiegogo campaign and is seeking to fund a US$50,000 goal in 30 days. Pledges start at $49 for the Introductory set, with "Complete" and "Educator" sets offering more elements and atoms.

Product prototypes and pre-production for the Happy Atoms mobile app have already been completed. So if tooling and production go according to schedule, backers can expect shipments to start as early as this November.

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