Hull students create virtual reality world

University of Hull chemistry students are using virtual reality building game Minecraft to teach young scientists of the future

The undergraduates have created a Minecraft world, called MolCraft, which aims to help youngsters learn about the world of chemistry, including the structure of proteins and chemicals.

The world, allows youngsters to roam around looking at molecular structures which have been specially build by students at the University.

The project was sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry and developed with Hull’s resident Minecraft education expert Joel Mills and Dr Mark Lorch, senior lecturer in biological chemistry at the University.

It aims to help change the public perception of the subject as well as offering a resource to schools across the country to help engage young scientists in a fun and interactive way.

Dr Lorch, who is also Associate Dean for Engagement in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: “Minecraft is a fabulous tool for exploring structures of buildings, landscapes and even anatomy. So why not molecules? We showed it to a class of children the other day and there were lots of wows and gasps. This just really grabs their attention. It is a really novel way of engaging them and delivering information to them.”

Students from the University used the protein data bank to create the world and worked out ways to use Minecraft’s familiar building blocks to form the structures. As well as structures and molecules to explore, the students have created a host of other surprises for children to roam around and find.

Dr Lorch said: “You can just explore and read the info about the molecules. But there are also a whole load of treasure chests dotted around filled with goodies, puzzles and quiz books. Some are easy to find, others are fiendishly difficult. If you locate them all then you’ll probably have learned a fair bit of chemistry along the way.” 

Anyone with Minecraft can log on and roam around MolCraft. The MolCroft world is also being made available for use in schools as part of the MinecraftEdu Library.

More details can be found at www.hull.ac.uk/molcraft

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