The third week of class I do a brief overview of chemistry. High school chemistry is a prerequisite for the class and one semester of college chemistry is a concurrent requirement for the class but some of the students may have forgotten some of their chemistry. There are also some topics which are not usually covered in much detail in first semester chemistry classes. I also like to start with atoms and build from the bottom up.

States of matter: Including Plasma
Structure of matter: Solutions, colloids, grains
Elements, atoms and molecules
Atomic structure and subatomic particles
The periodic table
Sub atomic particles (electrons, protons and neutrons)
Ions and Isotopes
Electron orbitals
Chemical bonding - covalent, ionic and metal bonding
Intermolecular forces - Hydrogen bonding, dipole interaction, London forces
Chemical reactions

This is quite a bit of chemistry to pour on them at this point but I want to introduce it early on so I can refer to it later.

I cover plasma as a state of matter since this is usually ignored in chemistry. I can demonstrate the plasma with a sputter coater or (a fluorescent light). We work with plasmas quite a bit later on in the program.

I want to show how colloids differ from solutions, I use silver nanoparticles and a laser to demonstrate how the particles scatter the laser light so you can see the beam compared to a flask with food coloring in water which (hopefully) does not scatter the beam.

I show a picture of grain structure because I want them to at least have seen grains at this point. We work with grains much more later on.

The lab is called the atom game and the students construct an atom by rolling dice.

The rules I use are as follows:
Dice roll:
1 = electron
2 = proton
3 = neutron
4-5 = particle of your choice
6 = Take a particle from another players reserve pile

If you do not have a complete, non-radioactive atom (no ions allowed) you place the particle in your reserve pile. If you have an electron and a proton then you can play Hydrogen by placing the proton in the nucleus and the electron in the 1s orbital. I usually have them play up to Neon. I provide them with a periodic table that shows the stable isotopes. As they play I have them fill in a work sheet. This is a grid with some cells filled in and other left blank. Across the top I have:

Element Name, Atomic Symbol, Atomic Number, Atomic Mass Number, Isotope symbol, Number of Protons, Number of Neutrons, Electron configuration.

For hydrogen most of the blanks are filled in and for each row in the table fewer blanks are filled in so the students have to fill in more. I encourage the students to fill in the blanks on the chart as they complete the corresponding atom on the game board. That way the information can be determined from the game board by counting the protons, neutrons, counting the number of particles in the nucleus, looking at the electron in the orbitals. Notice that one electron is placed face up (spin up) and the other is placed face down (spin down) as the orbitals are filled. Two electrons per orbital.

When I discuss electron orbitals I use this site:

I use the following image to describe matter from the macro scale down to the subatomic.

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Comment by Hans Mikelson on September 10, 2008 at 4:09pm
I used a paper punch which I got at a craft store to create the circular pieces. This might be a good task for a student assistant. You could probably do this lab with M&Ms and use a different color for each atomic particle.

I will use the atom game structure again when I cover electron beam specimen interactions in a couple of weeks.

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Comment by TINC on September 9, 2008 at 9:41pm
thanks Hans

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