11th August 2014

QUT has created the world's largest interactive chemistry textbook.

Developed in partnership with hundreds of students, teachers, academics and scientists, Chem World links directly to the new Australian curriculum for chemistry.

The two-storey interactive display at The Cube allows students to conduct virtual chemistry experiments too dangerous or difficult to run in a classroom - including launching rockets into orbit and creating colourful fireworks.

"Chemistry is fascinating but it involves concepts that are quite difficult to comprehend," said QUT's STEM teacher in residence Anne Brant, who co-conceived and championed the project.

"Students often have trouble moving from the physical side of chemistry into the abstract concepts that underpin the things they can see and touch.

"Because Chem World is highly visual, it can explain the abstract more easily than your traditional textbook - it's an intuitive, informative experience with a library of knowledge accessible at a finger's touch.

"Of course, Chem World isn't just for high school chemistry students. Science is something we should all know a bit more about, which is why we've designed this display to appeal to people of all ages."

Chem World includes an interactive periodic table with crowdsourced content moderated by professional chemists, and artworks created by students.

Chem World also contains three interactive experiments, where users can:
•Produce spectacular virtual firework displays to learn why some chemical elements produce colour and discover the 'fingerprints' of elements.
•Compete with others to launch rockets into space, in order to explore how fuels produce energy and compare different fuel types.
•See how water behaves on a molecular level and what happens when substances are added, in order to learn about solubility and what makes some things dissolve in water when others do not.

The interactive display was built by game developers in The Cube's studio team.

Co-creator and studio manager Sean Druitt said his team had spent 18 months engaging with the community and six months coding the software to bring it to life.

"If things like this were around when I was young I probably would have become a scientist rather than a games developer," Mr Druitt said.

"We have a modest team of eight staff and what we've produced is quite spectacular. And we'll be adding more chemistry experiments and modules in the future.

"We've enjoyed working collaboratively with the community to build Chem World and the project has opened the door for us to engage with the community on future projects tackling other traditionally dry subjects, like mathematics."

Brisbane schools are already planning to incorporate Chem World into their lesson plans.

"Students today have grown up in a digital world and they relate far more to technologies like this than the hard-copy textbooks older generations are used to," Kelvin Grove State College Head of Science Karen Gosney said.

"As educators, we will rely more and more on digital tools like this to enhance the learning experience for students.

"This project was a fantastic experience for the Kelvin Grove students who contributed their ideas and content."

QUT will launch Chem World at a public event on Friday 15 August, kicking off the university's National Science Week activities.

It will remain part of The Cube's permanent library installations, sharing the main display space with the Virtual Reef.

The Cube is open to the public seven day a week. Check the website homepage for a full schedule of programs.

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Media contact:
Kate Haggman, QUT Media, 07 3138 0358, kate.haggman@qut.edu.au.
After hours Rose Trapnell, QUT Media team leader, 0407 585 901.

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