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1993 ChemConf: Applications of Technology in Teaching Chemistry

06/14/93 to 08/20/93
Donald Rosenthal and Tom O'Haver

The first ChemConf

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

Carl H. Snyder,
Chemistry Department, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124,

James Shelley,
Academic and Research Systems, Information Resources,University of Miami,
Coral Gables, FL 33124


Both networked computers and electronic mail have been introduced into a chemistry course for nonscience students. A variety of course materials is available on networked departmental computers including a chapter-coordinated, instructor-written review executed through a commercially available program. In addition, for extra credit students are encouraged to submit their own multiple-choice questions suitable for use on course examinations. Questions may be submitted either on paper or, for additional credit, by e-mail. Students have access to e-mail on work-stations located throughout campus as well as on the departmental computers. Students are also encouraged to use e-mail as a supplement to office visits for communication with the instructor. Details of these applications are described, including the use of student-generated questions as exercises in English composition.

Carolyn Sweeney Judd
M.A.m Faculty, Chemistry

Robert G. Ford,
Ph.D., Faculty, English and Director of the Computer Co-op, Central
College, Houston Community College System, 1300 Holman, Houston TX 77004


For 16 organic students in a pilot program at Central College, HCCS, lecture has been replaced by a computer conference. Site licenses (or lab packs) have been obtained for Beaker, Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrum Simulator, The Schatz Index, and Organic Reaction Mechanisms. Using these programs the students respond to questions posed by the instructor. Interaction takes place on-line between students, as well as between instructor and individual students. PacerForum, the conferencing software, allows graphics and sound transmission to augment the student essays. Student participation is critiqued by both the chemistry instructor and the English instructor, who is the director of the Computer Co-op. Initial results indicate improved chemical comprehension and clarity in written expression. Students come early to class!

Douglas A. Coe
Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology
Butte, MT 59701


Physical chemistry topics involving second order partial differential equations often receive only cursory treatment in undergraduate curricula because analytic solutions of these equations are readily obtainable only for the simplest of boundary conditions. This paper will describe the solution of the diffusion equation on a spreadsheet, using the method of finite differences. The solution will be illustrated for the diffusion of Ar at 25 C through a 0.100 mm thick polyvinyl acetate membrane. Graphical comparison of the spreadsheet and analytic solutions show them to be virtually identical.

Richard S. Moog
Department of Chemistry, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA 17604-3003


Chemulate! is a Macintosh application which simulates the use of a UV/VIS absorption spectrophotometer in performing kinetics experiments. This stand-alone application provides the user with the capability to examine the absorption spectra of all reactants and products, and to select all of the initial conditions for a kinetic run (concentrations, wavelength, temperature, etc.). A plot of absorbance vs. time is then generated, which can be printed or exported to other applications for processing. Several files, for both generic and actual chemical reactions, have been created, and it is straightforward to modify these or create more for individual use. A description of the application, its previous use in a Physical Chemistry course, and possible suggestions for its use as an introduction to kinetics in lower level courses are presented.

Reed A. Howald
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717


How does one control a computer for the collection of experimental data in an instructional chemistry laboratory? Computers are useful for the collection of data, for data analysis, for presenting material, and for examinations precisely because they are versatile. However this means that they can do nothing for us without detailed instructions given faultlessly. A few incoming students know some programming, but most students and chemistry teachers do not. One way for our students and colleagues to tell their computers what it is that they want the computers to do is through "control files".

Control files are ordinarily in unreadable binary, but they can be constructed from numbers and text, with sufficient English to be interpreted by human beings. One can write a menu system which even beginning students can use to put together such control files without syntax errors. Two generations of such systems will be demonstrated.