Ciara Ní Dhrisceoil reviews this teaching app

3D molecules edit&drill
Virtualnye Prostranstva
iPhone/iPad app 2012 | £2.49

Using a tablet device

Source: Cultura Creative / Alamy

As a chemistry teacher of 16-18 year olds who use iPads in the classroom, I’m always looking for apps that allow students to construct molecules with 3D visualisation. 3D molecules edit&drill is a very effective app for this purpose as it allows organic and inorganic molecular structures to be built with single, double and triple bonds, as well as cyclic compounds. The molecules can be visualised in 3D using stick, ball and stick and space-filling (CPK) models. 

In building these molecules, guidance is initially needed to show how to use the software. There is a help button that provides clear and concise screen shots demonstrating how to use the app. I would have the students study these first in order to competently build a molecule. 

Once built, important information about the molecule can be displayed. For example, it is possible to visualise the atomic orbitals, see electronic effects using arrows and identify bond lengths and element symbols.  

Building on that knowledge, the Test Yourself feature is a very useful tool for student self-assessment. The app tests the student on the construction of inorganic compounds (acids, oxides, hydroxides and salts) and organic compounds (alkanes, cycloalkanes, alkenes, dienes, alkynes, aromatic hydrocarbons and alcohols). Once ‘Done’ is selected, the app will inform the student if they are correct, or give them the option of seeing a hint, which will guide them towards the correct construction. 

Once the molecules are built, they can be saved or emailed. This is another good feature for assessment as students can send molecules to the teacher and the image opens directly in the email. 

The acid test was placing the app it in the hands of one of my students. He found the app easy to use and, most importantly, he enjoyed building the molecules and testing himself on a topic recently covered in class. 

This is a valuable tool for beginner chemistry students when learning about molecular bonding and orbitals with the aid of 3D visualisation.