In a virtual chemistry laboratory developed at Multimedia System Laboratory there are more than 150 chemical experiments included in the curriculum of school chemical education. The chemical experiments are carried out in a three-dimensional simulated laboratory, which obtains all the necessary chemical equipment, glassware (test-tubes, retorts, supports, etc.) and chemical reagents. In order to eliminate overloading the visual space of the computer screen, the set of the lab equipment and chemicals available to learners is placed depending on the chemical experiment to be made. In some experiments - these are just bottles with chemical solutions, in others - complex chemical apparatus.
Experiments are modeled using real-time animation techniques and a learner can interact with virtual equipment in a way that is similar to the real lab procedures. Learners can set up chemical apparatus and carry out virtual experiments. Besides, it is possible to do the required measurements by means of virtual measuring instruments or to change the parameters of the experiments. When performing the experiment the learner can record observations in the form of "snapshots" with the help of virtual photo camera, report and interpret data of the experiment in the "Lab notebook". It is possible to watch the enlarged images of the ongoing chemical processes in a special "lens window". A learner's steps through the lab procedure are monitored by the program. The pedagogical agent, animated character "Chemist", gives necessary comments and guidelines in the speech or text-based form. To ease the recording of formulas and equations in the "Lab notebook" a special program "Editor of Chemical formulas" is realized through Macromedia Flash technology.
A "Molecular builder" for manipulating three dimensional representation of organic and inorganic molecules is included as a part of the Virtual Chemistry Laboratory. The use of 3D model of molecules and atoms to illustrate phenomena in chemistry teaching is required to ensure all three chemistry understanding levels: micro, macro and symbol . In order to make the behavior of substances more understandable for learners we introduce molecular models as they help visualize what learners cannot see.
A "Molecular builder" displays shaded color models in a wire frame, ball-and-stick, and space filling spheres format. The molecule may be rotated in real time by direct mouse drag. Several user friendly features of the builder allow learners to add and delete atoms and bonds by simple clicks of the mouse. To extend the use of molecules model in chemistry teaching the builder provides the visualization of various electron orbitals. Created by learners model of molecule can be exported out to VRML format if required and then viewed in a web browser.