At a Glance:
Happy Atoms is an “augmented reality chemistry set” that combines flexible, physical models of atoms which can be combined into different molecules, with an app that allows users to explore elements, molecules, and the bonds that create them. Their Indiegogo campaign is funding the first sets for both home users and classrooms.
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Happy Atoms is a system which combines physical and digital learning experiences to help children learn about chemistry in a fun, easy to understand, and safe way. It is aimed at children aged from 8-9 years old right up to college, although the fun, physical pieces could encourage even younger kids to take an early interest. The kit itself contains a number of different atoms–small plastic spheres with flexible arms representing free electrons, and magnetic bonding sites representing empty electron spots in the electron’s outer shell. Each of the arms has a magnetic tip which can attach to the bonding sites of other atoms to form dozens of different molecules.
The difference between Happy Atoms and other molecule construction kits is the app. The Happy Atoms app uses image recognition software to look at the molecule you have created and identify it. It then presents you with detailed information about that molecule, including details from the periodic table and its real world applications. For example, a look at the app’s information on carbon dioxide reveals the atoms used to create it, the types of bonds between them, and information about photosynthesis and how carbon dioxide is used in fire extinguishers.
The app allows kids to explore the world of chemistry by simply playing around with the toy atoms and discovering new molecules for themselves through scanning their creations. They can also work with cartoon colleagues Harper and Andee on over 50 research projects aboard their ship The Nucleus as it sails around the world of molecules. Aboard the ship, kids can also track their progress and see how many molecules they have discovered so far, and how many more are still out there to be found.
The world inside the app is divided up into regions that kids can explore: Sulphur Shores, Noble Kingdom, Oxygen Expanse, and more. Each molecule gets its own space on its island allowing you to navigate around the world and see how different types of molecules are grouped together. Each molecule also gets its own cute little symbol related to its uses or properties–propane gets a tiny barbecue, methanol a car, and formic acid an ant.
Personal Pledge Levels:
$10 – Water Molecule (2 Hydrogen, 1 Oxygen)
$50 – 17 Atom Starter Set (8 Hydrogen, 3 Carbon, 2 Nitrogen, 2 Oxygen, 1 Sodium, and 1 Chlorine) plus the app, scanning mat, and quick start manual.
$100 Early Bird/$130 – 50 Atom Base Set (14 Hydrogen, 1 Helium, 2 Lithium, 2 Beryllium, 6 Carbon, 3 Nitrogen, 6 Oxygen, 2 Fluorine, 1 Neon, 2 Sodium, 2 Magnesium, 2 Silicon, 2 Phosphorus, 2 Sulfur, 2 Chlorine, and 1 Argon) plus the app, scanning mat, and quick start manual.
Educator Pledge Levels:
$250 – Two 50 atom sets, each including 14 H, 1 He, 2 Li, 2 Be, 6 C, 3 N, 6 O, 2 F, 1 Ne, 2 Na, 2 Mg, 2 Si, 2 P, 2 S, 2 Cl, and 1 Ar, app, scanning mat, and quick start manual.
$360 – School Test Bundle. Agree to test Happy Atoms in your classroom and send feedback in return for 50% off the regular retail price. The 250-atom set includes these atoms: 70 H, 5 He, 10 Li, 10 Be, 30 C, 15 N, 30 O, 10 F, 5 Ne, 10 Na, 10 Mg, 10 Si, 10 P, 10 S, 10 Cl, and 5 Ar, app, 5 scanning mats, 5 quick start manuals, and a durable plastic storage bin.
$550 – Educator’s Bundle. The 250-atom set includes these atoms: 70 Hydrogen, 5 Helium, 10 Lithium, 10 Beryllium, 30 Carbon, 15 Nitrogen, 30 Oxygen, 10 Fluorine, 5 Neon, 10 Sodium, 10 Magnesium, 10 Silicon, 10 Phosphorus, 10 Sulfur, 10 Chlorine, and 5 Argon, the app, 5 scanning mats, 5 quick start manuals, and a durable plastic storage bin.
Chemistry is one of those subjects that many of us hold our hands up at, claiming not to be smart enough to understand it without ever really trying. However, chemistry is also fundamental to our world. From baking to gardening, to cleaning the toilet–almost everything we do involves chemistry, right down to taking our next breath. If we want to solve the big questions of our age: global warming, the cure for cancer, etc., then we need a generation of kids who aren’t afraid of chemistry and who are keen to explore it.
I think if I had Happy Atoms in my high school classroom or a set at home to help me with my homework, then maybe I would have stuck with the subject a bit longer (and not gotten quite so confused over the differences between molecular, covalent, and ionic bonding–that video we had to watch about atoms hooking up in a nightclub really did nothing to answer my questions). I’d love to see a set of these in every chemistry classroom around the world and I hope this crowdfunding campaign can go some way to achieving that.