Colin Ashe (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), David Yaron (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), Jodi Davenport (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), W Craig Carter (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Donald R. Sadoway (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
While many concepts in chemistry can be illustrated effectively through direct simulation of atoms, some abstract concepts may be better conveyed via simulations based on analogies. A multidisciplinary project focused on core concepts underlying multiple STEM disciplines identified a number of high-leverage concepts not easily addressed via atom-level simulation. These include the energy landscape, entropy, and free energy. Here, we discuss how we applied theoretical work on analogy and model construction, as well as interpretation-constraining multiple representations, to the development of analogic simulations. We also describe the use of multiple physically different but behaviorally identical analogies to promote abstraction across examples. Data on both student evaluation of the simulation design and students’ understanding of the information represented in energy landscape diagrams will be presented. To conclude, we discuss recent use of contrasting cases in atom-level simulations related to temperature and heat capacity.