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IES Contract

Title: Happy Atoms
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Schell, Jesse Awardee: Schell Games
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (5/7/2015 - 5/6/2017) Award Amount: $899,542
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES15C0025

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: This project team developed and tested Happy Atoms, a physical modeling set and an interactive iPad app for use in high school chemistry classrooms. Happy Atoms is designed to facilitate student learning of atomic modeling, a difficult topic for chemistry high school students to master. Standard instructional practice in this area typically includes teachers using slides, static ball and stick models, or computer-simulation software to present diagrams on a whiteboard. However, these methods do not adequately depict atomic interactions effectively, thus obscuring complex knowledge and understanding of their formulas and characteristics.

Project Activities: During Phase I, completed in 2014, the team developed a prototype of a physical modeling set including a computerized ball and stick molecular models representing the first 17 elements on the periodic table and an iPad app that identifies and generates information about atoms. A pilot study at the end of Phase I tested the prototype with 187 high school students in 12 chemistry classes. Researchers found that the prototype functioned as intended. Results showed that 88% of students enjoyed using the prototype, and that 79% indicated that it helped learning. In Phase II, the team developed additional models and to strengthen functionality for effective integration into instructional practice. After development was completed, a larger pilot study assessed the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and promise of Happy Atoms to improve learning. Results of a randomized controlled trial at the end of Phase II with 1,795 high school students conducted during the 2017 to 2018 school year demonstrated that Happy Atoms was successfully implemented in classrooms and by teachers. Results also revealed that that Happy Atoms provides an alternative to more traditional ways of teaching and learning chemistry, as students in the treatment group performed as well on researcher developed measures of chemistry knowledge aligned to standards and attitudes about science as students who used physical models taught by an expert teacher.

Product: Happy Atoms includes a set of physical models paired with an iPad app to cover high school chemistry topics in atomic modeling. The modeling set includes individual plastic balls representing the elements of the periodic table. Students can use an iPad app to take a picture of models they create. Using computer-generated algorithms, the app then identifies the model and generates information about its physical and chemical properties and uses. The app also informs students if a model that is created does not exist. Happy Atoms replaces or supplements lesson plans to enhance chemistry teaching. The app includes teacher resources suggesting how to incorporate games and activities to reinforce lesson plans and learning.

Related IES Projects: Happy Atoms (EDIES14C0041)