Monday, February 3, 2014

Elements4D - Exploring Chemistry with Augmented Reality

This is a guest post from Samantha Morra of, an advertiser on 

Augmented Reality (AR) blurs the line between the physical and digital world. Using cues or triggers, apps and websites can “augment” the physical experience with digital content such as audio, video and simulations. There are many benefits to using AR in education such as giving students opportunities to interact with items in ways that spark inquiry, experimentation, and creativity. There are a quite a few apps and sites working on AR and its application in education.

Elements4D, an AR app from Daqri, allows students explore chemical elements in a fun way while learning about real-life chemistry. To get started, download Elements4D and print the cubes.

There are 6 physical paper cubes printed with different symbols from the periodic table. It takes a while to cut out and put together the cubes, but it is well worth it. In Elements4D, the cubes then become the trigger that bring the elements to life.

Students point the iPad camera at a cube, and it will reveal additional information about that element.

With 6 cubes, students have 36 naturally-occurring elements. Through AR, they will learn their names, what they look like, and their atomic weights. Here are gold and carbon. (If a student clicks on element, they will get more facts about it.)

The best part, though, is when students put two cubes together, then they can see how they react and get the resulting compound and chemical equation. Notice, when they are not touching, Hydrogen and Oxygen are gasses. Put them together and, you guessed it, they turn into water.

One of the big benefits of these cubes is that students can “play” with elements that they could never handle in a classroom. In fact, students can even “play” with Plutonium. Here are the cubes for Plutonium and Bromine separately. Notice that Bromine is a liquid and Plutonium is a solid.

The really wonderful thing about this AR app is that it stimulates inquiry. After showing this app to students and teachers of different ages, the reaction has all been the same. They want to manipulate the cubes and see what happens. They are excited about chemistry.

Using Elements4D students could do a variety of these activities:
  • Create a log of different chemical interactions. Draw how each element looks individually and then how they look together. Take note of the state of matter, color, etc.
  • Pick one or two elements and see how all of the other element react with them.
  • View each element and create a chart sorting them by state of matter: solid, liquid or gas.
  • Try just putting gasses together, or liquids or solid. What kinds of conclusions can students make after observing what reacts to another element.
AR can make the 21st century digital classroom a dynamic place to teach and learn. We are just beginning to see apps and programs that are harnessing the potential that AR can have in the classroom. If you have not played with any augmented reality apps yet, check out Elements4D. You are in for a treat. This app works great and fosters inquiry and experimentation with chemical elements in a safe environment.

Samantha will be leading EdTechTeacher iPad workshops in Chicago and Cambridge this summer.