Make your atom

An interactive lab where students can assemble any atom they want, and see what this element will look like.

This lesson is a part of MEL VR Science Simulations. Learn more →

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Teacher's notes


atom, nu­cle­us, pro­ton, neu­tron, iso­tope, elec­tron, elec­tron or­bital, elec­tron con­fig­u­ra­tion di­a­gram, s-or­bital, p-or­bital

Stu­dents will

  • As­sem­ble any atom they choose
  • Re­view elec­tron or­bital names, shapes, and or­der of ap­pear­ance
  • Re­view elec­tron con­fig­u­ra­tion di­a­grams
  • As­sess their iso­tope’s sta­bil­i­ty

Lab de­scrip­tion

We rec­om­mend us­ing the ‘Make your atom’ lab to not only re­view atom­ic struc­ture and elec­tron con­fig­u­ra­tion, but as a pow­er­ful tool to demon­strate how elec­tron struc­ture af­fects el­e­men­tal chem­i­cal prop­er­ties. In ad­di­tion to an elec­tron con­fig­u­ra­tion di­a­gram and 3D vi­su­al­iza­tion of or­bitals, this lab pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about the atom, such as its size and se­lect char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The 3D vi­su­al­iza­tion of elec­tron or­bitals ap­pears for each elec­tron as soon as it is added. To the right of the 3D vi­su­al­iza­tion, the elec­tron con­fig­u­ra­tion di­a­gram is filled. High­light­ing the elec­tron or­bital on the 3D mod­el high­lights the cor­re­spond­ing or­bital on the di­a­gram and vice ver­sa.

The lab draws upon a com­pre­hen­sive data­base of el­e­ments, in­clud­ing all known iso­topes. Af­ter the nu­cle­us is com­plet­ed, in­for­ma­tion about the iso­tope (sta­bil­i­ty and half-life, his­to­ry of dis­cov­ery) ap­pears to the left of the 3D vi­su­al­iza­tion.

The lab serves pri­mar­i­ly as a skill builder for elec­tron con­fig­u­ra­tion, al­though it can be used in a va­ri­ety of top­ics through­out the cur­ricu­lum, such as:

  • Pe­ri­od­ic­i­ty and prop­er­ties
  • Ion for­ma­tion
  • Bond­ing
  • Sta­bil­i­ty of iso­topes
  • Ra­dioac­tiv­i­ty and half-life

Top­ics to dis­cuss

  • Elec­troneu­tral­i­ty of the atom
  • Auf­bau prin­ci­ple, Pauli ex­clu­sion, & Hund's rule
  • En­er­gy lev­els
  • Iso­tope sta­bil­i­ty and half-life