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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Web based Spectra Game

Yesterday I used the NMR game in Second Life during our 2-hour Friday workshop in CHEM242. (We used a new location on Drexel island SLURL) The students who attended had looked at little or no material prior to the workshop. By the end I ended up explaining chemical shifts, complex coupling patterns and diastereotopic hydrogens differentiated by the presence of a chiral center. The only concept we didn't cover is integration, although we used peak size to take a guess about groups with lots of hydrogens (like trimethyl).

I think it was a very efficient way to teach NMR and the students can now go off and continue to practice till our next workshop Monday. Second Life has some advantages - such as the ability to mediate group study sessions where students from remote location can come together to play and discuss spectral assignments using either voice or chat. It is also nice to see the molecules in 3D, especially for bridged cyclic systems.

However, there is a bit of a learning curve to get into Second Life and not all computers have a suitable video card. So it is nice to now have the ability to play the game on a web browser. Andy set up the game play so that the score reflects the number of correct answers obtained in a row. There are also only 3 molecules to choose from instead of 5 in Second Life.

We're using JSpecView to render the spectra so expanding peaks simply requires dragging the mouse across the area of interest. It is also possible to integrate and view the metadata by right clicking.

Currently we mainly have H NMR spectra but we'll be adding lots more C NMR, IR, UV, MS, etc. It all depends on how many Open Data contributions we can find. If anyone has spectra to donate please upload them to ChemSpider and don't forget to check the box for Open Data.

This has been a wonderful example of rapid collaboration by Andrew Lang, Rajarshi Guha, Antony Williams, Robert Lancashire and myself.

Give the web Spectra Game a spin and see if you can beat the high score....

Saturday, February 07, 2009

NMR game on Second Life

Andrew Lang and I have been discussing publishing our work on chemistry and Second Life. We're working on the draft here. When going over the game section, it became clear that we'll probably need to make two manuscripts out of this. This is an opportunity to wrap up my previous work on the EduFrag project - using Unreal Tournament to teach organic chemistry. I had submitted that article but as it was going through the peer-review process the approach was essentially made obsolete when we adapted the quizzes to Second Life.

So Andy and I brainstormed some new chemistry games that we could introduce to Second Life to leverage our recent tools. One of the applications is the NMR game. By combining the orac molecule rezzer, the SL spectral viewing tool and ChemSpider Open Data spectra I think we have a pretty good game.

The idea simple: click on the molecule that is represented by the spectrum. If it is correct you get 2 points and get another spectrum. You lose a point by clicking on an incorrect molecule. After going through all the spectra your score gets posted on the web to a top10 list. For equal scores the best time takes it.

From an educational perspective this is useful I think on several levels.

First the ability to look at the molecule in 3D makes it easier in many cases to demonstrate the relationship between Hs, which is critical in NMR.

Second we are using real spectra - not simulations. That is a great opportunity to teach students about how to deal with impurities, solvent peaks or quirks in the peaks. The viewer allows for easy zooming by typing commands like "zoom 1.5-2.5" in the chat box.

Third this spectrum viewer uses Open Source JCAMP-DX files so it can (and will) be adapted to all kinds of spectra - like IR, UV, MS, C NMR, etc. I'm teaching (CHEM 242) all of those techniques this term so I'll have an opportunity to see how well it works.

There is currently a copy of the game on ACS island (SLURL) - give it a try and give us some feedback.

Here is picture of the game area (Viv is sitting on the molecule and I'm on the spectrum):

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