Innovating education in South Africa: Formula D interactive presents a virtual, yet tangible Chemistry Lab.
Posted by Michael Wolf on December 22, 2011
Formula D Interactive recently developed a Virtual Chemistry Lab, as a safe, low cost alternative to the standard chemistry laboratory in schools. The heart of the system is a so called object recognition table. The interactive platform consists of a 50″ High Definition rear projected screen prepped with lots of computing power. Sophisticated pattern recognition technology allows users to navigate content information by placing physical cards onto the table’s glass surface. The circular cards are held in 2 containers, one on each side of the table. Each card represents a specific substance or tool, just like the objects and materials you would find in a real chemistry lab. Once a card has been placed on the table, a menu appears around the card. Users can then turn the cards to further specify the desired function, e.g. one can turn up the heat of the Bunsen burner. When placing different substances together, reactions take place. But no worries: no fingers will be burned in Formula D’s Virtual Chemistry Lab. Still, the application warns learners about potentially dangerous actions, and makes sure that they are aware of the safety gear required to conduct the experiments.
“Multimedia learning environments are more effective than traditional learning media such as text books, since they engage multiple senses simultaneously. This is proven to stimulate learners, whilst making learning content more memorable.”
This exciting system, which has recently received its first order by chemical industry giant BASF, who donated the tool to The Nelson Mandela Bay Science Centre, promises to take learning environments to another level by combining the power of digital simulation with intuitive tangible interaction. Michael Wolf, CEO of Formula D interactive knows: “Multimedia learning environments are more effective than traditional learning media such as text books, since they engage multiple senses simultaneously. This is proven to stimulate learners, whilst making learning content more memorable.”
However, traditional computer interfaces are not always suited for classroom environments. They are conceptualised for a single user and do not encourage collaboration. Another challenge in South Africa is a high level of fear towards technology that can be observed especially in the more remote areas of the country. Many practising educators themselves haven’t had a lot of exposure to computer technology.
Formula D interactive’s Virtual Chemistry Lab may become a stepping stone for South African schools, introducing sophisticated technology which does not require the operation of menus, mouse and keyboard.
Future developments will include a low-cost, transportable version of the Chemistry Lab. By the way, the concept can easily be expanded to other subjects like biology, physics, or mathematics.
“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.”
Interactive experimental environments like Formula D’s Virtual Chemistry Lab could greatly benefit the current educational classroom situation, making technology tools more accessible to educators and learners, maximising their ability to retain valuable lessons through hands-on interaction. Marco Rosa, MD at Formula D interactive, highlights the companies leading theme contained in a quote by Confucius: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.”