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Polyhedral Model Kit


The breathtaking speed with which science and engineering are advancing reflects our increasing sophistication in understanding how the structures of solids influence their physical and chemical properties. These structures have taken on enhanced significance with the many recent exciting advances in materials and nanoscale science and engineering. From an educational perspective, the three-dimensional extended structures that are characteristic of many of these solids are particularly challenging to visualize.

This Polyhedral Model Kit was developed to complement the ICE Solid-State Model Kit, which, since 1994, has allowed teachers and students to investigate the three-dimensional structures of solids that comprise the world around us. Using spheres, rods, and templates, the ICE Solid-State Model Kit permits construction of solids whose atomic arrangements are guided by sphere packing. Many of these same solids can be represented in a powerful, alternative way by linked polyhedra. This new kit also allows one to build less symmetric structures not possible using sphere packing. The ability to shift between these different viewing perspectives is an important pedagogical objective, as it can produce new insights into structure-property relationships. The Polyhedral Model Kit provides the means to investigate these important spatial relationships.

There are many opportunities for integrating the Polyhedral Model Kit into the curriculum. It can be used to build many structures that would commonly be discussed in science and engineering courses such as chemistry, chemical engineering, geology, environmental science, materials science, soil science, and physics.

This kit owes its conception and original implementation to the eminent solid-state chemist, A. F. Wells. Nearly fifty years ago, Wells convincingly demonstrated the power of polyhedral models to create simple and complex structures. The authors are grateful to Drs. M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University and Terrell A. Vanderah of the National Institute of Standards and Technology for bringing the kit to their attention and to Dr. Wells’ family for permission to re-release the kit. Advances in polymer science and computer-aided design and manufacturing have resulted in this enhanced version of the kit.

The Polyhedral Model Kit serves as part of the educational infrastructure for an effort, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, to integrate materials and nanoscale science and engineering into the curriculum. The guidance and advice of Retlaw Industries has been invaluable in manufacturing this educational product. Ryan Nygard designed the cover art for the kit.

While many individuals contributed to the realization of this Kit, including Phillip Barak, Mithra Beikmohamadi, Cindy Carter, Olivia Castellini, Tony Cina, Keenan Dungey, Andrew Greenberg, Janice Hall, Robert Lichter, Ken Lux, John Moore, Don Neu, Jim Rougvie, Matt Vander Zanden, Jen Walz, and Greta Zenner, it is our pleasure to acknowledge especially the many teachers and students around the country who auditioned the Kit and whose comments have greatly enhanced its effectiveness.

We hope that you enjoy and learn from the Kit, and we welcome your comments and suggestions.

Safety Please exercise normal care in handling the plastic pieces and connectors; while they are sturdy, they can be broken. The kit should be kept away from small children, who might accidentally ingest the small parts.
Protecting Your Kit Use and store the kit in a dry environment: water could damage the cardboard box; organic solvents can attack the plastic parts. Keep the plastic pieces away from excessive heat which could damage the parts or soften the connectors.
Allowed Uses Since some users may wish to incorporate the directions for building a model into their own written materials for students, permission is hereby granted for such use, provided that it is for local, non-commercial distribution. Anyone considering for-profit reproduction of any of these images or of the model-building directions must obtain written permission from the Institute for Chemical Education.
Checking the Model This booklet contains computer-generated illustrations of some of the structures. Since these images are static, they do not serve as a substitute for the models; to see all features of a structure, the model must be built. The companion web site to this model kit shows interactive views of the models and can be used both for building structures and checking their accuracy.
Living Product We encourage the development of new structures. If you devise new structures, let us know (lisensky@beloit.edu), and we will try to include the structures in the on-line manual.
Funding We are grateful for funds from the National Science Foundation through Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) on Nanostructured Interfaces (DMR-9632527, DMR-0079983 and DMR-0520527) and The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.
Inspiration This model kit was inspired by a kit originally prepared in the 1960s by A. F. Wells, the author of Structural Inorganic Chemistry, Oxford University Press.
Field Trials The model kit has been used in field trials by the following individuals and their chemistry and geology classes: Mike Condren (Christian Brothers University), Keenan Dungey (U. of Illinois-Springfield), Bill Durham (University of Arkansas), Maggie Geselbracht (Reed College), George Lisensky (Beloit College), Karen Nordell (Lawrence University), James Rougvie (Beloit College), Mark Van Baalen (Harvard University), Eric Voss (Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville). We thank these individuals and their students for helpful contributions.

Exploring the Nanoworld   |   MRSEC on Nanostructured Interfaces
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This page created by George Lisensky, Beloit College.  Last modified April 25, 2015 .