After years of writing software for chemistry based research simulations, computer scientist David Doherty thought to himself, ‘more people need to be seeing this stuff.’
Eventually, he started Bitwixt Software Systems with wife Lindi for 3D simulation software focused on a visual approach to understanding the molecular world of chemistry.
This concept is known as the Atomsmith Classroom of Molecular Exploration and the goal of the software is to make the subject of chemistry more appealing to students through an interactive solution.
Unlike some sciences such as biology, chemistry is primarily taught in an abstract, textbook based manner, which lacks an interactive component that is key to understanding how molecules work. With Bitwixt, teachers can demonstrate the software through a ‘stand-up’ approach while students are able to run the simulations on their own on a computer — conducting first hand experiments with 3D models on their own.
“Like anything, the more comfortable students are with a topic, the more they tend to enjoy it,” says Doherty. “And students today are very comfortable with interactive computer technology.”
The real hope of David and Lindi is “to draw more students into science and science-related careers.” Teachers are reaping the benefits too; as one described, ‘a concept that usually took 20 minutes to explain verbally can now be visually demonstrated in 30 seconds.’ Not only is the teaching time significantly reduced for each concept, but students also comprehend material more deeply, which is directly seen in improved test performance.
Atomsmith can be used as both a supplement to an annual chemistry curriculum or be the core curriculum itself. In some cases, the software is even replacing textbooks.
The software is currently in approximately 35 schools and/or districts and is being used by thousands of students across the US, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, New York and California. While schools are the primary buyers of the software, parents are also intrigued for college-preparatory or AP class purposes. Even some self-learning geared retired persons have recently been buying the software.
Currently available on Windows, the team is in the process of integrating with MacOS and iOS, with the first of multiple stages being released this summer. The company is also working with a non-profit called Minnesota Computers for Schools, which refurbishes donated computers and offers them to schools at low prices or through grants from several Minnesota companies.
It’s clear that Atomsmith is making a significant impact on the educational environment and here’s to the continued adoption of this novel Minnesota creation by more schools, teachers and students throughout the country.