University of São Paulo: Researchers develop augmented reality app to teach chemistry


Teaching theoretical concepts is not always a simple task. Faced with the difficulty of chemistry teachers in illustrating principles such as isomerism (substances of the same atoms with different properties), chemist Cibele Zanatta da Silva Pereira used augmented reality in the creation of an application to help the teaching of organic chemistry.

Named IsomeriAR, the novelty is the result of Cibele’s master’s research in the area of ​​Chemistry teaching at the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP) at USP. In addition to facilitating the teaching activity, believes the researcher, the application stimulates students’ interest by relating the technology present in everyday life with science.

The choice of isomerism is explained by the researcher because it is a topic that still leaves students with many doubts. It is a chemistry concept referring to substances with the same formula.

Cibele’s advisor, Professor Márcia Andreia Mesquita Silva da Veiga, says that with IsomeriAR it is possible to “successfully project three-dimensional images of organic compounds on the screen of mobile devices, which allows the user to interact manually with the virtual molecules and , most importantly, it is accessible to the public school student”. It works on a system similar to the game Pokemon Go, released in 2016. The student only needs to scan a QR Code – available on cards for teachers – to see, enlarge, reduce or rotate the molecule in augmented reality.

Application construction

For the development of IsomeriAR, Cibele initially had two programs, Unity , its own tool for developing the application, and Vuforia , an instrument that enables the function of augmented reality.

In a second moment, two other applications were used, Jmol, which is already used by chemists to visualize chemical structures in 3D, and Blender, which allows the creation and editing of animated images and videos.

Cibele says that the idea of ​​developing the system “seemed like a daring and even impossible proposal”, mainly because of the technical part of the application, a subject that the researcher confesses that she did not have much knowledge of. “I had to study each of the programs used and learn about the features of each one to adapt its use to what I needed”, she says.

Regarding the methodological proposals for use in the classroom, the researchers guarantee that IsomeriAR can facilitate the spatial identification of molecules and the writing of molecular, structural and stick formulas, also serving to teach the physical properties of organic compounds.

And, according to Professor Márcia, the application is already in negotiations with the USP Innovation Agency for registration and this year it should be made available to be applied in classrooms. According to the teacher, the demonstrations already carried out were very positive. “The students were absolutely delighted; the student will be able to handle, rotate, enlarge and reduce the size of virtual objects, in addition to being able to compare two chemical structures simultaneously.”

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