The HTML5 version of “Atomic Structure” and the status of the Chemthink HTML5 port

Category : High School, Middle School, Uncategorized · (6) Comments · by April 8, 2016

HTML5 ATOMIC STRUCTURE is pleased to announce that the HTML5 version of the Chemthink “Atomic Structure” tutorial and problem set is now online.  Because the new version is designed from the ground up for HTML5, it means that students with iPads, iPod Touches, or phones can now run the tutorial in a browser without needing an actual computer.  In 1:1 classrooms, this means students won’t need to go to the computers to log in.  It should take approximately five minutes less to get students up and running with the tutorial.

Atomic Structure

Click the magnifying glass to go to the Chemthink “Atomic Structure” tutorial


In creating the HTML5 version, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to the original Flash version, only adding or making changes where it made sense.  For teachers, this means any worksheets or activities you created based on the original should still work with the HTML5 version.

When a student clicks to launch the app, they are presented with a choice between the tutorial and the problem set.  In practice, I have found that it is easiest to tell my students to open up and run the tutorial in one browser tab while running the problem set in another.  If a student misses a question, I tell them to find the answer in the tutorial before clicking the “continue” button.

Because there is no student login required, students are able to get started very quickly.  This also means that students will need to show you when they are finished with the problem set.  I have included a large gold star on the completion screen so that you can very quickly glance at a student’s screen to see that they are finished.  For students completing the problem sets at home, I have asked that they take a “selfie” with their completion screen.

Because of the amount of class time I have saved by not requiring a log in, I am strongly considering permanently eliminating the need to log in.  The drawback to not requiring students to log in is that teachers will have no ability to track student progress, other than physically observing their students’ screens.  If you can’t live without the student tracking feature, please speak up!


From start to finish, the “Atomic Structure” HTML5 port took 12 days to complete.  I am hoping that I can maintain this pace for the remaining 9 tutorial/problem sets, plus the “Chemical Reactions” lab simulation.  At this rate I should finish everything in about 20 weeks, roughly around the beginning of September.

What would you add or change about Chemthink?

Category : High School, Middle School, Uncategorized · (2) Comments · by March 22, 2016

I’ve begun the process of rewriting Chemthink from scratch. At this point I’m looking at reusing all of the existing animations and texts, but we have an opportunity to make the suite of tutorials, question sets, and virtual labs even better. I can’t promise anything because I have only a finite amount of time to finish the project, but I would like to open things up for input from Chemthink users.

So far, the to-do list includes:

  • Recreate all tutorials, problem sets, and labs in HTML5 so they run on mobile
  • Rebuild the user database so that teachers can create and manage classes and students can log in and track their progress

If you could change anything about Chemthink, what would you change?

If you could add any capabilities, what would you add?

The Chemthink Problem Sets are Now Available!

Category : High School, Middle School, Uncategorized · (1) Comment · by March 10, 2016

A few weeks ago I posted 8 of the original Chemthink Flash tutorials. I am excited to announce that the Chemthink problem sets are now available for these tutorials!  The question sets require students to answer a certain number correct before they miss a small number of questions.  As a result they are fairly difficult.  If students struggle on a problem set, they are encouraged to take a look at the tutorial again.

There is no server backend, so if you want to keep track of which problem sets or tutorials you or your students have completed you will need to take a screenshot of the completion screen.

Tutorials and their corresponding problem sets are now available for the following:

The Particulate Nature of Matter
Atomic Structure
Ionic Formulas
Ion Formation
Gas Laws
Covalent Bonding
Ionic Bonding
Molecular Shapes

In addition, over the next few days I post two more problem sets without tutorials: “Chemical Reactions” and “Isotopes”. At the moment the tutorials for each of these are nonfunctional, but I will do my best to get both the tutorials and their question sets working as soon as I can.

Edit 3/10/2016 – All 10 tutorials and problem sets are now available, including “Chemical Reactions” and “Isotopes.


We are bringing Chemthink back!

Category : High School, Middle School · (12) Comments · by February 25, 2016
We are bringing Chemthink back!

Chemthink has been an outstanding chemistry resource for many years.  Its Flash-based tutorials and quizzes were a great way for…

Melting and Boiling is now online!

Category : Biology, High School, Middle School, Uncategorized · No Comments · by February 16, 2016

Melting and Boiling
This week in physical science we needed a basic simulation to show a particle model of the melting and boiling of ice. “Melting and Boiling” is designed to address very basic questions, such as “What is ice?”, “What is water?”, “What is steam?”, and “What happens to water molecules as temperature rises?”

Would you like to see more basic chemistry simulations? If so, comment below, and I will try to get to them when I can!

Teaching Color Theory With Simulations

Category : High School, Middle School, Physics · No Comments · by February 1, 2016
Teaching Color Theory With Simulations

What do you do with the last two weeks of physical science class before the final?  I needed to come…

New DC Circuit Builder Element – The Knife Switch!

Category : Uncategorized · No Comments · by January 19, 2016

DC Circuit Builder

After over one year on iTunes, Google Play, and online, DC Circuit Builder has proven to be Nerd Island‘s most successful app.  It works well in our physics classrooms because it is simple.  It doesn’t include a lot of bells and whistles, and doesn’t worry about the fact that in most beginning electronics labs you are working in kilo-Ohms and milli-Amps rather than Ohms and Amps.  Students seem to respond to the fact that it is laid out on a grid and that you can draw wires across the screen simply by swiping your finger.  However, as with any app, there will always be room for improvement and new features.  The most common feature request by far is to add switches to the simulation.

Thanks to our school’s time off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and a little nudging from another teacher, I made the time to add knife switches to the simulation.  Under the “Draw” tab, students can now choose between a wire, a knife switch, a resistor, a light bulb, and an inline ammeter.  By adding switches, students can now model household lighting circuits as well as more complex systems.

I will push the new version out to iTunes and Google Play when I have time, but for now you can find the new version of DC Circuit Builder right here on SimBucket.  If you have previously run the web-based version of DC Circuit Builder, make sure to clear your browser cache so that you can load the most up-to-date version.

Please give it a shot, and let me know what you think!


Teaching Heat Transfer Using the Particle Model in Physics

Category : High School, Middle School, Physics · No Comments · by December 19, 2015
Teaching Heat Transfer Using the Particle Model in Physics

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Matt Krehbeil from Achieve, Inc., the nonprofit organization that coordinated…

2 New Simulations For the New School Year!

Category : High School, Middle School, Physics · No Comments · by October 8, 2015

With all the free time (hah!) afforded by the new school year, we have been busy putting together new simulations for our students.  Two of these made their way onto “Graph Matching” and “Tennis Ball Cannon”.  Both simulations are built using HTML5 technology and are optimized for phones and tablet screens.

We built “Graph Matching” as a supplement to the classic physics experience where students have to walk forward and backward in front of a motion sensor to match the graph on a computer screen.  Our simulated version is miniaturized to fit on the small screen.  Each student guides a character walking forward or backward to match a graph on their mobile device.  It worked great in physical science class to drive home the idea that steeper slopes = faster speeds.

Graph Matching

Beware the wrath of an improperly matched graph!

“Tennis Ball Cannon” is a model of our tennis ball launcher that we use to shoot football field goals from ridiculous distances.  Our real-life tennis ball cannon typically launches tennis balls at greater than 80 meters per second, which meant that it was necessary to account for air drag in the model.  Students can easily adjust launch speed, launch angle, drag coefficient, air density, ball mass, and ball cross-section to make more accurate predictions of the trajectory of a tennis ball.  Our students had a great time using the model to determine how fast our cannon shoots.

Tennis Ball Cannon

Wow! Look at how much air drag slows things down!

We hope you enjoy these simulations as much as we have.  Please give them a try and let us know what you think!

SimBucket Team Makes The News!

Category : Uncategorized · No Comments · by February 26, 2015

Chris Bruce, Martin Kulak, Kevin Shane, and David Torpe were featured on Sunday night’s news broadcast on KTUU Anchorage for their work at the ASTE Conference 2015.  Check out the news clip on the KTUU website!

SimBucket Team on KTUU Anchorage

(c) 2014 Nerd Island Studios, LLC