What is Inter-Chem-Net?

The Inter-Chem-Net (ICN) project at the University of Maine allows introductory chemistry students to use computers and sophisticated instrumentation in first year chemistry laboratories. The goal of the project is to revitalize the introductory chemistry laboratories so students experience the process of chemistry and use the current tools of chemistry to observe the atomic world. The project allows hundreds of students to access UV-visible and infrared spectrophotometers quickly and efficiently by separating the data acquisition and data analysis.

How does ICN work?

Phase One:

Students run a sample quickly on one of the instruments, then perform the slower process of data analysis on a separate networked computer. The instrumentation -- UV-vis spectrophotometers -- enriches the laboratory experience by allowing students to use the tools of chemistry, but it does not replace traditional wet lab activities. Instead, instrumentation used in the first-year laboratory helps students connect the traditional wet-lab experience to a more sophisticated image of subatomic activity. It can then be used to create a laboratory setting in which students actively engage in the process of chemistry rather than simply following a cookbook-style directions.

Phase Two:

The second phase of the ICN project builds on the current software to provide discovery and mastery-based laboratories asynchronously. Students use the ICN software to choose from a list of 'simple' experiments and then progress to more advanced choices as their skill set expands. As students gain significant proficiency in doing experiments with clearly delineated tasks,they will extend their choices to include discovery-based lab experiments. Individual student pathways allow students to progress at different rates with instructors monitoring student progress in the lab. Computer databases thus provide the record keeping for large numbers of students while the students and instructors can interact to create meaningful learning.


Uses of ICN in the high school chemistry lab

Inter-Chem-Net can accomplish similar goals for the high-school chemistry student. Students learn by using instruments and techniques current in modern chemistry research. We hope that the use of the Inter-Chem-Net will also provide the following advantages for both students and teachers in the high school:


MSLR: Each labs cites specific performance indicators for secondary students as listed in the Maine State Learning Results.

Pre- and Post-Lab questions: Content-related questions asked before and after labs help track student understanding.

Lab feedback: Snapshot questions help collect student reactions to labs, spectroscopy, and the ICN system.

Safety links: Where needed, the ICN system provides direct links to relevant material safety data sheets (MSDS), increasing both student and teacher awareness of proper handling of specific substances.

Automatic assignments: In labs requiring testing unknowns, ICN can automatically assign each student a specific unknown when the student logs in for their assignment. This feature saves the teacher time in the lab period, and increases students accountability in performing their own work.

Speed and Accuracy: The technology allows for much faster data collection than is possible with instruments usually found in high-school settings. There is little down time as students wait to scan samples: The average scan takes about 30 seconds to complete.

Use of technology: Students gain proficiency in using chemistry research instruments and computer technology to collect, analyze, and present data.

Management: Teacher may use the ICN system to set standard due dates for lab reports (ex. 5 days from data collection), track student completion of labs via final questions submission, and monitor student attitudes through feedback questions.

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