Projects | Create a Chemical Reaction

Making chemistry tangible

Projects | Create a Chemical Reaction

Making chemistry tangible

Through tactile interaction, Create a Chemical Reaction creates an intuitive and rich educational experience that’s social and fun.

In the exhibit, visitors can assign specific elements to the handheld pucks by placing the pucks on elements within the periodic table that is projected directly onto the exhibit’s surface. When the atoms and/or molecules which are needed for a particular chemical reaction are brought into close physical proximity in the exhibit’s workspace, a reaction occurs, triggering imagery and video of the transformations and resulting molecules.

MSI Chemistry table

Custom content was created for some reactions including the formation of potassium with water which produced an explosion and the formation of sulfuric acid which burns a hole into the table. By physically adding and removing pucks from the reaction area, visitors have a hands-on experience of how minimal differences between chemical formulas can result in molecules with dramatically different physical properties.

MSI Chemistry table animated reaction

MSI Chemistry table user interaction and response

Additionally, Patten Studio created a mobile and web-based app to compliment the exhibit. goREACT is a virtual chemistry lab in which users can explore chemical properties of elements in the periodic table. The drag-and-drop laboratory promotes free play while the “featured reactions” mode guides users through the chemistry of particular themes such as the environment, beauty products and the automotive industry.

Patten Studio built Create a Chemical Reaction exhibit on the Sensetable platform. Sensetable is a system that wirelessly tracks the positions of multiple intelligent objects on a flat display surface quickly and accurately. Initial proof of concept applications for the Sensetable platform were developed by James Patten, Gian Antonio Pangaro, Matt Reynolds, Jason Alonso, Joseph Panganiban, Jim Hines, and Professor Hiroshi Ishii at the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.

In 2011, Create a Chemical Reaction was awarded the Gold Muse Award for Interactive Kiosks by the American Alliance of Museums, and honor given to one exhibit per year.