“Create a Chemical Reaction” introduced a tactile way to interact with digital content that engaged more people and encouraged curiosity, creating a richer educational experience
The power of the exhibit comes from allowing visitors to use handheld pucks to interact with a periodic table that is projected onto a tabletop surface. Visitors move the pucks around the workspace to “pick up” various elements, to see if and how they would react with other elements to cause various chemical reactions. When they cause a chemical change, images and video of the reactions are triggered, providing an element of discovery and surprise.
By being able to physically add and remove pucks from the exhibit’s interface, visitors enjoyed a hands-on experience in learning how dynamic chemistry is; how minimal differences between chemical formulas can result in molecules with dramatically different physical properties.
Rounding out the interactive experience was a mobile and web-based app called goREACT that provided a virtual chemistry lab in which to 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.
“Create a Chemical Reaction” was awarded the Gold Muse Award for Interactive Kiosks by the American Alliance of Museums in 2011.
The “Create a Chemical Reaction” exhibit was built on the Sensetable platform, a proprietary 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.