Author Archives: Dan Damelin

Exhibit Booth at BCCE Conference and free MW buttons

Just got back from the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE 2012), where I participated in a symposium titled “Web-Based Resources for Chemical Education.” About 60 people attended to learn about Molecular Workbench and other online tools and resources. One of the audience questions was about future availability of Molecular Workbench on the iPad and other tablets. Our latest work on the HTML5/JavaScript next-generation MW project, generously funded by, will address exactly this. We’ll be bringing much of the Java-based Classic MW to the browser, so that any device running a modern Web browser will be able to run our newest interactives and activities.

I didn’t get to attend many of the other sessions at BCCE because much of my time was spent staffing Concord Consortium’s exhibit booth to disseminate our free software. Jeanne Hurtz and I spoke with hundreds of people who stopped by our booth to hear about the current MW capabilities and see a next-generation MW model running on a tablet. We gave away about 350 MW buttons, but have a few left. If you’d like one of your own, please stop by our office at 25 Love Lane in Concord, MA, to pick one up!

It was great to share the excitement of MW’s potential and versatility with so many new people. We heard from many (surprised) guests at our booth: “This is free?”  Yes! And so is the button.

Summer vacation for teachers: The perpetual search for new and improved ways to teach

For 14 years I was a teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. Today is the first day of summer vacation for my friends and colleagues there. Now I work at the Concord Consortium, but I remember fondly that day when all the grades had been turned in and “vacation” began. I usually took a couple of weeks to crash and recuperate, but contrary to the understanding of most non-teachers, many teachers spend a significant portion of their summer writing curricula, going to conferences, getting ready for the upcoming year and continuing that perpetual search for new and improved ways to teach.

I taught chemistry and one of the most difficult things I had to deal with was the fact that pretty much everything we explored had to do with atoms and molecules too small to see. Somehow chemistry students need to find a way to imagine a world full of uncountable, invisible particles flying around at blistering speeds, colliding, reacting, attracting and repelling. For the past 10 years we have been developing a piece of software to address this challenge–the Molecular Workbench. During that time I worked with the MW team to create simulation-based activities that give students a concrete handle for thinking about the atomic-level world. Using these activities, students do virtual experiments with atoms and molecules, push and prod them, change the parameters of various simulations and build their own mental model of the atomic foundation of the world around them.

Do you struggle with this issue or just want to “play” with some molecules? Below are a few of my favorites:

Check out the huge collections of models and activities found at and be sure to take a look at our latest work in making the Molecular Workbench run in the browser without the need for Java.

Have a great summer. May it be both relaxing and productive. 🙂