Do you ever have that Go-To demonstration or website for an activity that you really value? You've been using it for a few years, tweaked it to make it better - only to send your students there one year and have the activity fall flat on its face because the website is no longer available?
That almost happened to me this year.
As described in a previous post here on ChemEd X, I use Molecule Lab on iPads, coupled with an online simulation to introduce students to Maxwell-Boltzmann distributions. The pairing of the simulations really complemented each other, and students left with a good foundation for moving forward with energetics and kinetics discussions. In the previous post linked earlier, I take you through the process of the lesson and give some background on my discussion with students.
This week I intended to use the same process, having the students work through the two simulations as my typical introduction to Maxwell-Boltzmann. Luckily, I'm now in the habit of checking simulations I use the night before a lesson just to verify that they still work. When I found that Java simply wouldn't cooperate I started searching for replacements. I ended up stumbling upon the Wolfram Demonstrations Project (See note below about the simulations). This platform, created by the same group that put forth Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, has a simulation "player" that uses Mathematica output for various simulations. Included in this collection is a similation that will create Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution curves for different conditions. The conditions that can be varied are temperature and molar mass of the gas.
And while I did find this simulation quite clean and easy to use with the sliders provided so students could change conditions, I did miss the molecular motion provided by the previous simulation that no longer works for me due to Java issues. Another improvement would be adding a second gas (with its own set of sliders) to the same graph for an easier direct comparison between conditions. But linking the observations of the simulation with observations from MoleculeLab allowed students to generate a better understanding of the concept of Maxwell-Botlzmann Distribution Plots, and thus the simulation was useful.
I intend to explore the Wolfram collection more, and will share any simulations that I put into circulation within my class.
Do you have any Go-To simulations you rely on for your teaching sequence? I'd love to hear about them.
Note: In order to use these simulations, you need to download their CDF Player. Once the CDF Player is downloaded, you can download the actual simulations and save them to your hard drive. The simulations are pretty small - with many less than 100 KB. The CDF Player, however, takes up over a GB of space on your hard drive. But it's worth it! There are numerous simulations available.