Virtual science makes lessons exciting – and inclusive

By Kitty Knowles 20 April 2017

Saying no to uninspiring, isolating science.

Dr Becky Sage studied chemistry and got her PhD at a top university. But despite academic success, Sage was not satisfied.

“I was extremely unhappy and isolated and I didn’t have the skills to apply my science learning and knowledge to my working life,” she told The Memo.

“After over 20 years of science education I felt like I was a waste of space in the world.”

So Sage decided to transform the system that had failed her – to make science exciting, engaging and fulfilling for future generations.

Interactive Scientific

In 2014, Sage joined David Glowacki, an academic and Royal Society Fellow, and Phil Tew, a computational wizard, to lead their newly founded Bristol-based company, Interactive Scientific, as CEO.

The business had actually already created a project that complemented Sage’s vision called danceroom Spectroscopy.

Launched at Bristol’s Arnolfini centre, this allowed visitors to become ‘energy fields’, and to use their bodies to interact with molecules around them. The hit science installation went on to visit everywhere from London’s Barbican to New York’s World Science Festival.

Pic: danceroom Spectroscopy.

Fixing teaching in schools

The next task for the team, was to develop products that could impact teaching in the classroom.

“Science education is also often taught in a way that is disconnected from the world that students live in – which means that they switch off,” Sage explains.

Instead the company started developing their platform Nano Simbox, and a taster app for the platform called Molecules and Me (which you can already now download for smartphone or tablet).

As shown in the video below, students can use their hands (and sensors) to manipulate and play with molecular structures in an engaging educational way.

Kids will even soon be able to use Nano Simbox in virtual reality (we tried this out at VR World Congress in Bristol last week, and it was fantastic).

“We want users to be able to tell the story of the molecule and understand the invisible science can be found all around them,” says Sage. “We can make every science lesson feel like a practical lesson.”

Whether students are using Nano Simbox on VR or their tablets, the goal is to create confident science explorers.

“We want kids to be solving climate change problems, or creating new health care using Nano Simbox, and adults using it to help them to innovate.”

A look at the Molecules and Me app.

Watch this space

Sage is now preparing to launch Nano Simbox in 100 schools this Autumn – and hopes to build further versions for corporate training and university students. Next year, the company is launching second pilot in Asia.

“The big dream is that we have a scientific ecosystem – and that by teaching, understanding and physically interacting with globally impacting scientific challenges, we provide the next generation of aspiring scientists and entrepreneurs the confidence and work skills to make a difference to our world,” says Sage.

“We can use technology, pedagogy, and great content to make abstract concepts into a tangible experience – and much more fun to discover.”

With years of study behind her, entrepreneurial passion and creativity, we can’t imagine that science will ever feel isolating again.