Chemistry Apps for Students

ChemClub can be a great opportunity for some informal learning about basic chemistry concepts, but they have to be fun, engaging and appropriate.

A recent ACS Newsletter featured an article that offered 24 free chemistry apps for iPads that are appropriate for chemistry students. The list was compiled by Christopher Pappas of and it includes a wide range of subject matter and levels.  While some are more appropriate for a university level, there are many that high school chem students will enjoy.

Atom Builder Screen Shot


For example there is Atom-Builder, a game designed to teach students the skills they need to count protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom. In another app called Chemistry Formulas Practice, students learn the skill of naming compounds and writing formulas.



Nova Elements Screenshot

One of my personal favorites is NOVA Elements.  This is part of the educational support materials that were developed for the two-hour NOVA program, “Hunting the Elements.” Using this app you can explore and interactive periodic table, play a game with the host of the Nova program or watch “Hunting the Elements”.  ACS worked with NOVA in the development of some of the support materials for the show.

Beyond the apps listed in the ACS Newsletter, there are a number of interesting items for both iOS and Android based platforms.

Elements 4D

A new app called Elements 4D is amazing.  Technology often amazes me, but doesn’t often surprise me.  Elements 4D did both.  Print out paper cubes and fold them into shape.  Each face is printed with an element name, at. no. and at. wt.  But when you hold the paper cube in front of the smart device camera, it changes into a transparent cube with a representation of the element inside! There is also basic information about the element in text below the image.  Take two cubes and hold them together in front of the camera and if they can react, they will, and the programs shows the product. Making the paper cubes would be a great club activity.

A search for Chemistry Apps on Google Play generated a dozen hits.  Among these was Chemistry Helper, which the site describes as “A simple app designed as a quick reference for chemistry students. Includes a periodic table with links to wikipedia, a tool to calculate molecular masses of compounds (with a button at the top to perform simple grams/moles calculations, calculate mass percents and do stoichiometry.” Plus lots of other functions.

Complete Chemistry




Complete Chemistry includes tutorials, problem solvers, quizzes, formulas and a chemical dictionary.  It received great reviews as an effective tool to help students learn chemistry.




ChemPro: Chemistry Tutor is aimed at AP Students or General Chem students.  It is linked to video lessons and has an array of flash cards to help student learn important basic information.  Students can try various experiments with no danger of broken test tubes or expensive reagents.

Virtual lab


And finally, there is Chemist: Virtual Chem Lab, which (for $4.99) allows you to do a variety of virtual experiments on your smart tablet. Students can try various experiments with no danger of broken test tubes or expensive reagents.



Students seem to be drawn to technology, especially when it is fun and interesting.  Check out these apps to see if they might have a place in your next ChemClub activity.

What are your favorite apps to use?

Happy Mole Day!

Avi juggling BeansMilli with a Lollipop




Be a Maker

Art made from spinning ink on paper in a salad spinner

Art made from spinning ink on paper in a salad spinner

Etching a metal pot

Etching a metal pot

A Prosthetic hand made from a 3D printer

A Prosthetic hand made from a 3D printer


Imagine a student who can design and build a prosthetic hand, all on their own.  Or a group of students making a robot that shoots basketballs.  Or a ChemClub putting together a model car that runs on a tiny fuel cell.

It is all happening right now as part of the increasingly popular Maker Movement.  It is all about ” all-ages of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, and science clubs” coming together with the goal of “making stuff.”

Maker Faires

At a recent Mini-Maker Faire in Portland, Oregon, all sorts of makers were present.  One booth offered instruction on making masks and costumes from cardboard.  Another let attendees put together an electronic pin with blinking lights, learning how to solder and use solid state components in the process. Maker Faires are all-age gatherings that bring together a mix of people who share an interest in making things.  They started in 2006 with Maker Faires in New York and San Francisco.  By 2013 there were nearly a hundred independent mini-maker fairs offered all over the world.

Electric Playdough
Conductive playdough running a motor

Conductive playdough running a motor.

The Maker Movement has all the ingredients for a great ChemClub activity.  One perfect example was making Playdough and using it for experiments.  The typical recipe for homemade Playdough contains a lot of salt.  At the Mini-Maker Faire one group demonstrated how the Playdough could conduct electricity by sticking battery leads in one end and lighting up a mini LED bulb at the other.

Make Magazine is full of examples and ideas for Maker projects.  A recent posting had instructions on how to permanently etch metal, using simple household materials.  They used the technique for etching volume marks inside a stainless steel kettle, but it could be used to make ornaments or jewelery or any number of things.

Making Paper

Making Paper

Biosiesel to Yogurt

On the Maker Faire website they feature a special section for chemistry related projects that presents dozens of ideas, from making biodiesel to making yogurt.  This site doesn’t include complete instructions, but it is a rich source for ideas.

Perfect for ChemClub

Great ChemClub activities are a combination of learning basic chemistry while having a lot of fun.  Check out these and other Maker activities for your next meeting.

AACT: A Great Resource for Teachers of Chemistry

AACT logo The American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) officially launched in September. As a ChemClub advisor, you can further supplement your students’ chemistry experiences by joining for the annual fee of only $50, and preservice teachers can join at the discounted price of $25.

Some member benefits include being part of a community of K–12 teachers of chemistry, access to high-quality resources, and subscriptions to the ACS publication ChemMatters and the new AACT online periodical Chemistry Solutions, which is written by and for teachers of chemistry.

AACT’s website has collections of original multimedia that may be of interest to ChemClubs. AACT partnered with New York Times bestseller Sam Kean to bring his book “The Disappearing Spoon” to life—each short video in the series features Sam narrating a story inspired by his book about various elements.

There is also a series of videos about the founders of chemistry: Learn about Mendeleev’s journey to assemble the periodic table, the ancient chemists who paved the road for what chemistry is today, the first female Nobel Laureate Marie Curie’s life story, and others.

One mission of ChemClubs is to provide students with fun, authentic, and hands-on opportunities. The library of classroom resources on AACT’s site includes lessons from teachers across the country and around the world. Peruse the collection and try some of the demonstrations with your club members. Safety precautions in each lesson are outlined in detail, so if you have an outreach program, you can gauge right away whether the activity is appropriate for your students to run, or whether it should be facilitated by an instructor. AACT has a number of lessons that are designed for student-to-student interactions, including this cabbage activity. And if you have a great activity you’ve done with a club, you can submit it to the AACT library, and AACT will credit your ChemClub with its contribution.

Ferrous WheelIn each issue of Chemistry Solutions there is a column called Chemistry Fun! In the September issue, the column featured pictograms of phrases that were puns of chemistry concepts. For example, what is this? Your club members may get a kick out of activities included in this column.

You can subscribe to AACT email updates by completing the “Stay in Touch” field in the footer of Or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest for other news and information from AACT. We are excited to be part of the K–12 chemistry community, so share with us ideas you have by emailing

Celebrating Planet Earth


The planet Earth is our shared home with a vast number of other living organisms, so it is humanity’s duty to try to conserve it the best we can. To promote awareness of the necessity of keeping our planet healthy, people around the world celebrate Earth Day annually on April 22. In celebration of this ideal to keep our planet clean, chemists from all around the island of Puerto Rico gathered in El Paseo de La Princesa, in Old San Juan, San Juan, to highlight “The Wonders of Water,” this year’s American Chemical Society (ACS) Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme.

Members of different ACS clubs throughout the island got together and prepared more than 20 tables with exhibits and demonstrations involving the physical and chemical properties of water, as well as explaining the importance it has not only for us humans, but for every other living being on our planet. Natives, tourists, and club members all had the chance to participate.

Students from the Specialized School in Science and Math Thomas Armstrong Toro in Ponce couldn’t miss this amazing opportunity. Ten students from the school’s ChemClub set up and helped at the school’s table, explaining the experiments and demonstrations. The explanations were fitted to the audience, from explaining to children how water and oil “don’t get along” to discussing cohesion and adhesion with advanced participants. It was also imperative that the students spoke both English and Spanish, allowing them to communicate efficiently with not only the natives, but tourists from other countries as well.

Three demonstrations that stood out were:

Surface tension

Participants were urged to attempt to float a paper clip in a cup of water. A few were able to achieve this. Here a student explained how best to do it, as well as how the liquid is able to keep the paper clip afloat.


Oil and water

Oil and water were put in a clear glass and food coloring was added. After this, an Alka-Seltzer tablet was placed in it. In the water, the tablet reacted to produce carbon dioxide gas. Bubbles of carbon dioxide gas carried droplets of water upward through the oil, producing an effect like a lava lamp. Children were urged to take home a small test tube with the mix with their parents’ permission. A version of this activity is online at Lava Lamp.


Soft and hard water

The procedure was to mix water with magnesium sulfate in a water bottle, leave another water bottle full of water intact, and then add dishwashing soap to both. The participants were asked if, after shaking the bottles vigorously, they knew which water was the hard water. Many noticed how the softer water had much more bubbles than the hard one.


The conservation of planet Earth should be one of the most important things on our agenda these days, as each day pollution worsens the situation for everyone. We all have to remember that our one little drop of water can make an enormous difference in a sea of people, and we can all contribute to a better world, one way or another.