Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yenka: 3-D Simulation Software to Create Interactive Models in Science, Math, and Technology

I've been teaching physics this semester, and in my search for resources, I stumbled upon this incredible resource.  Yenka is some very powerful 3-D simulation software that allows you to model all sorts of topics related to science, technology, math, and computer programming.  For example, in the area of physics I'm teaching (light and optics), Yenka has some pre-built virtual labs that allow you or a student to manipulate  concave or convex lenses to see how the light rays travel through them and how near or far from the lens you must be for the picture to be clear and focused.   They also have models for the colours of light (it was developed by a Scottish firm, so the spellings are British rather than American), for fiber optics, for light refraction, microscopes and telescopes, and several others.  But they also have lots of other ones relating to electricity, sound, forces, and other physical concept, plus another whole load of models for chemistry.

Then there is math, which has over 200 models about numbers, geometry, measurements, and statistics.  In the technology section...well, I can't even understand what their description of things you can do mean, but apparently you can "Design and test analogue and digital electronic circuits, convert them to PCB layouts, and program PIC or PICAXE microcontrollers."  Whatever, it sounds like powerful stuff.  Finally, in computing, they have what is supposed to be a simple programming technique for manipulating 3-D animated character using flowcharts (although more sophisticated program require an upgrade to some other software they have).

And the REALLY good news is that all this powerful software is FREE--BUT, only for using at home.  For teachers to use the software at school, they must buy a personal or an institution license.  However, for teachers who want to play with it at home to try out some ideas, or for parents who want to supplement what their children are learning at school, it is fantastic.  Plus, it does say specifically that the free license is available to homeschoolers.  Yippee!

So it really is a wonderful resource for creating all sorts of different simulations and interactive virtual exercises in lots of areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.  To download your FREE at-home license to try it out, visit the Yenka website.

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