The 21-Tech initiative has allowed me as a Discovery Guide to push myself further on how much information I can process and share with each visitor I encounter.- Odis Garrett, Children’s Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech is a bridge between our museum guides and the visitors in that it creates connections between educational concepts and the real world.- Shawn Waxali, Children’s Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech has helped Discovery Guides engage visitors by extending their experience through the apps and applying it to the exhibits.- Ian Tibby, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech is a way of ‘hiding the vegetables in the fruit’ where the kids do not realize they are learning, but instead having fun and being fed knowledge that intrigues their minds.- Lauren Bell, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech provides a new outlet for our Discovery Guides to interact with the visitors in a way that further enhances their experience and makes the visit overall extra enjoyable.- Sylvia Garcia, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide

Nice Molecules

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App Description: Nice Molecules is an app that has a database of over 250 molecular compounds. On clicking the ‘I’ button, you can get information on the chemical formula, history, use and where these molecules are seen in daily life. You can also connect to a Wikipedia page for more information on the molecule. It shows 3D, rotating molecular structures that can be changed at random by shaking the iPad.

How We Use It: At the Children’s Museum of Houston, we use this app in the Super Small Matter Lab in the Matter Factory. The content that we try to teach in a kid-friendly language is that Molecules are everywhere; in solids, gas and water. Also, just like a shape is created by many sides (a triangle has 3 sides), in the same way many atoms/tiny particles stick together to create a molecule. The matter lab has a molecule making station with various colored balls, sticks and info cards with structures of common molecules such as Water, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, etc. These cards have information such as the name and visual structure of the molecule, chemical formula and where it is found in daily life.

We use this app as an extension of knowledge from simple to complex. We start off by making a simple molecule with the kid like the one on the cards. Then we show more complex ones like Fructose (in candy), Aspirin (medicine for headaches), Caffeine (in chocolates and sodas) or Vitamin C (in orange juice) and where they are found. We ask the kids to count the number of atoms in the structure and then identify which colors they are. If the kids are older (ages 7+) then we try to figure out the names of atoms (whether oxygen, carbon or hydrogen or any other) based on the color-coded chart of atoms near the molecule station. For example, white is for Hydrogen and black is for Carbon. If the kids are interested then we try to make a complex molecule with many atoms. In addition, some challenges can be talking about small and big molecules; some smallest molecules are Hydrogen gas (H2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) while some of the biggest (complex) molecules are some proteins, and Diamond.

Important note: We feel that it is better to choose a molecular compound from the list by clicking the ‘+’ button because there are a few compounds in the list that are not appropriate for children such as LSD, Cocaine, Heroin etc. Therefore, please make an important note of having the facilitator choose an age-appropriate molecule before sharing with the visitor.

Please share any other innovative ideas that you may for using this app 🙂

Museum Recommending: Children’s Museum of Houston
Platform Used: iPad1 & 2, iPhone & iPod Touch
Cost: $1.99
Link: Nice Molecules

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Project Brief

21-Tech partners study and share the effective use of Personal Mobile Technologies (PMTs) by gallery facilitators in their work with visitors. The initial three years (2011-2013) of 21-Tech are funded in large part by a 21st Century Museum Professionals award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is led by the Children’s Museum of Houston in partnership with Lawrence Hall of Science, New York Hall of Science, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Sciencenter. For more information, please visit the About page.

Major funding provided by:

Additional support provided by: