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Y Science

Y Science Overview

Y Science

Y Science Overview

Welcome to Y Science Laboratories, a set of realistic and sophisticated simulations covering chemistry, physics, biology, and planetary motion. In these laboratories, students are put into a virtual environment where they are free to make the choices and decisions that they would confront in an actual laboratory setting and, in turn, experience the resulting consequences. These laboratories include simulations of inorganic qualitative analysis, fundamental experiments in quantum chemistry, gas properties, titrations, calorimetry, organic synthesis and qualitative analysis, mechanics and planetary motion, density, circuits, optics, and for biology, microscopy, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, and systematics. In this section we provide a brief overview of all of the Y Science products and simulations, and where you can find more information. 


Y Science Laboratories is an umbrella product covering all of the virtual laboratories that form the Virtual ChemLab, Virtual Physics, Virtual Physical Science, Virtual Earth Science, and Virtual Biologsimulations as well as the worksheet activities that are included with each of these products. Our original simulation product, Virtual ChemLab, is now available in a completely updated version 4.5. Fully functioning samplers are available to show the power of the simulations. Samplers include copies of Virtual ChemLab v4.5, Virtual Biology v4.0, and a Y Science sampler, which is an umbrella simulation covering Virtual Physics, Virtual Physical Science, and Virtual Earth Science. Samplers are restricted to five uses and contain only a representative samples of workbook activities. The purpose of this Y Science web site is to provide users and potential users a central location to view tours of the different simulations, see what research has been performed and published, find purchasing information and additional worksheet activities, see what other teachers are doing, and create a user community with a forum and FAQ site. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact us using the Contact page. The recently updated FAQ page contains answers to all of the most common questions about the simulations.

After installing any of the Y Science v2.5 or v3.0 products, the software is configured to access the laboratories either through the electronic workbook or by entering as a Guest through the Laboratory door. The blue electronic workbook is designed to be used in conjunction with worksheets that are provided with the software and will most likely be the principle method for gaining access to the various laboratory simulations. However, students can also be given electronic assignments through the Web Connectivity Option (not functioning in the sampler version) that they accept inside the various laboratories and report their results back through the electronic lab book. These types of assignments are accessed by entering through the Laboratory door and providing a user name, password, and the URL address for the Y Science server. Details on receiving and submitting electronic assignments are given in the various laboratory user guides. It is strongly suggested the user guides be reviewed before running the software. See the FAQ for more questions and answers about using the simulations in a workbook versus electronic assignment mode. 

For Virtual Biology v4.0 and the new Virtual ChemLab v4.5, we have eliminated the Instructor Utilities backend system so there is no longer a hallway or card reader before gaining entrance into the laboratory. Access to the main laboratory is now given at the start of the program. The main laboratory interface has also been updated to be fully scaleable with the different laboratories being accessed through holographic projectors. A whiteboard is also available in the main laboratory and contains the preset assignments for the worksheets. A further description of what is new in the v4.0 and later products can be found in the FAQ.

A brief description of the ten chemistry and physics laboratories found in the Y Science laboratories is given below.

Mechanics. The mechanics laboratory provides students the flexibility to perform many fundamental experiments to teach the basic concepts of Newton’s laws and planetary motion that are easier to model in a simulated situation rather than a real laboratory. The ability to control the frictions, forces, and physical parameters of motion allows students the ability to easily use equipment that can be found in most instructional laboratories and some equipment that would be less readily available. Students are able to measure speeds and distances, describe the motion of objects using graphs, interpret data, understand our solar system, and gain a foundation for concepts in physics. These results can then be used to validate Newton’s laws; demonstrate the interplay between force and motion; calculate conservation of momentum; and study the intricacies of the solar system under variable initial conditions and parameters. A partial list of the experiments performed in the mechanics laboratory include projectile motion in uniform or radial gravity, ramp motion in uniform or radial gravity, the collision of multiple balls with elastic or inelastic collisions, a falling rod, and the motion of the planets and their moons in the solar system viewed from various perspectives. The difficulty level of these experiments ranges from basic to sophisticated, depending on the level of the class and the purpose for performing the experiments.

Inorganic. The features of the inorganic simulation include 26 cations that can be added to test tubes in any combination, 11 reagents that can be added to the test tubes in any sequence and any number of times, necessary laboratory manipulations, a lab book for recording results and observations, and a stockroom for creating test tubes with known mixtures, generating practice unknowns, or retrieving instructor assigned unknowns. The simulation uses over 2,500 actual pictures to show the results of reactions and over 220 videos to show the different flame tests. With 26 cations that can be combined in any order or combination and 11 reagents that can be added in any order, there are in excess of 1016 possible outcomes in the simulation.

Quantum Mechanics. The purpose of the quantum laboratory is to allow students to explore and better understand the foundational experiments that led to the development of quantum mechanics. Because of the very sophisticated nature of most of these experiments, the quantum laboratory is the most “virtual” of the Y Science laboratory simulations. In general, the laboratory consists of an optics table where a source, sample, modifier, and detector combination can be placed to perform different experiments. These devices are located in the stockroom and can be taken out of the stockroom and placed in various locations on the optics table. The emphasis here is to teach students to probe a sample (e.g., a gas, metal foil, two-slit screen, etc.) with a source (e.g., a laser, electron gun, alpha-particle source, etc.) and detect the outcome with a specific detector (e.g., a phosphor screen, spectrometer, etc.). Heat, electric fields, or magnetic fields can also be applied to modify an aspect of the experiment. As in all the Y Science laboratories, the focus is to allow students the ability to explore and discover, in a safe and level-appropriate setting, the concepts that are important in the various areas of chemistry. 

Gas Properties. The gas experiments included in the Y Science simulated laboratory allow students to explore and better understand the behavior of ideal gases, real gases, and van der Waals gases (a model real gas). The gases laboratory contains four experiments each of which includes the four variables used to describe a gas: pressure (P), temperature (T), volume (V), and the number of moles (n). The four experiments differ by allowing one of these variables to be the dependent variable while the others are independent. The four experiments include (1) V as a function of P, T, and n using a balloon to reflect the volume changes; (2) P as a function of V, T, and n using a motor driven piston; (3) T as a function of P, V, and n again using a motor driven piston; and (4) V as a function of P, T, and n but this time using a frictionless, massless piston to reflect volume changes and using weights to apply pressure. The gases that can be used in these experiments include an ideal gas; a van der Waals gas whose parameters can be changed to represent any real gas; real gases including N2, CO2, CH4, H2O, NH3, and He; and eight ideal gases with different molecular weights that can be added to the experiments to form gas mixtures. 

Titrations. The virtual titration laboratory allows students to perform precise, quantitative titrations involving acid-base and electrochemical reactions. The available laboratory equipment consists of a 50 mL buret, 5, 10, and 25 mL pipets, graduated cylinders, beakers, a stir plate, a set of 8 acid-base indicators, a pH meter/voltmeter, a conductivity meter, and an analytical balance for weighing out solids. Acid-base titrations can be performed on any combination of mono-, di-, and tri-protic acids and mono-, di-, and tri-basic bases. The pH of these titrations can be monitored using a pH meter, an indicator, and a conductivity meter as a function of volume, and this data can be saved to an electronic lab book for later analysis. A smaller set of potentiometric titrations can also be performed. Systematic and random errors in the mass and volume measurements have been included in the simulation by introducing buoyancy errors in the mass weighings, volumetric errors in the glassware, and characteristic systematic and random errors in the pH/voltmeter and conductivity meter output. These errors can be ignored, which will produce results and errors typically found in high school or freshman-level laboratory work, or the buoyancy and volumetric errors can be measured and included in the calculations to produce results better than 0.1% in accuracy and reproducibility.

Calorimetry. The calorimetry laboratory provides students with three different calorimeters that allow them to measure various thermodynamic processes including heats of combustion, heats of solution, heats of reaction, the heat capacity, and the heat of fusion of ice. The calorimeters provided in the simulations are a classic “coffee cup” calorimeter, a dewar flask (a better version of a coffee cup), and a bomb calorimeter. The calorimetric method used in each calorimeter is based on measuring the temperature change associated with the different thermodynamic processes. Students can choose from a wide selection of organic materials to measure the heats of combustion; salts to measure the heats of solution; acids, bases, oxidants, and reductants for heats of reaction; metals and alloys for heat capacity measurements; and ice for a melting process. Temperature versus time data can be graphed during the measurements and saved to the electronic lab book for later analysis. Systematic and random errors in the mass and volume measurements have been included in the simulation by introducing buoyancy errors in the mass weighings, volumetric errors in the glassware, and characteristic systematic and random errors in the thermometer measurements.

Organic. The general features of the organic simulation include the ability to synthesize products; workup reaction mixtures and perform extractions; use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), infrared spectroscopy (IR), and thin-layer chromatography (TLC) as analytical tools; purify products by distillation or recrystallization; and perform qualitative analysis experiments on unknowns using functional group tests with actual video depicting the results of the tests.  The simulation allows for over 1,000,000 outcomes for synthesis experiments and can assign over 300 different qualitative analysis unknowns.


Density. The density laboratory allows students the ability to measure the mass and volume of a large set of liquids and solids which, in turn, will allow them to explore the fundamental concepts governing density and buoyancy. The laboratory has a set of graduated cylinders that can be filled with various liquids such as water, corn syrup, mercury, jet fuel, tar, plus many others. These cylinders can be filled with one or two liquids to study miscibility or the relative density of the liquids. The laboratory also contains a large selection of solids that can be dropped into these cylinders, and the students can then observe whether the solids float or sink in the selected liquids. The density of the solids can be calculated by measuring the mass of the solids and the volume of liquid displaced in the cylinders after the solids have been dropped into the liquid. The density of the liquids can be determined by measuring the mass and volume of the liquid.

Circuits. The circuit laboratory gives students the freedom to discover and learn the principles associated with simple electrical circuits involving resistors, capacitors, and inductors. The laboratory allows students to build circuits using either a breadboard or schematic representation. Using the breadboard students will connect components as they would in an ordinary circuit laboratory by adding resistors, light bulbs, capacitors, or inductors of any combination and a battery or function generator. When using the schematic the students can “draw” a circuit schematic on paper as they would to plan a circuit. The breadboard and schematic are linked together so they automatically populate when the other one is changed. Using the digital multimeter and oscilloscope students can then analyze their circuits and learn principles like Ohm’s Law, the power-voltage relationship, AC/DC sources, and much more.

Optics. The optics laboratory gives students the freedom to discover and learn the principles associated with simple optical experiments involving light sources, objects, mirrors, lenses, prisms, and filters. The laboratory allows students to set up optical experiments on a standard optics table by placing components on the table and moving the viewing detector or virtual eye to different locations to observe the resulting image characteristics. When setting up experiments with mirrors and lenses in different combinations, students can analyze their layouts to test image characteristics depending on object locations and verify the lensmaker equations. Principles of light addition and subtraction can be studied with filters and prism light recombination. Snell’s Law and the law of reflection can also be investigated.

Microscopy. The purpose of the Microscopy laboratory is to provide students with the opportunity to explore the virtual world of species from the microscopic to the macroscopic using microscopes that provide a complete range of viewing magnifications. The microscopes available in the laboratory include a dissecting microscope, compound microscope, scanning tunneling microscope (SEM), and a transmission electron microscope (TEM). A field microscope is also provided for observing objects with no magnification or with normal eyesight. These microscopes provide a complete and realistic series of magnifications enabling students to view a wide range of images, subjects, and scales.

Genetics. The genetics laboratory is divided into two distinct experiments covering Mendelian genetics and Population genetics. For Mendelian experiments, students can select a set of traits for the selected species, define the initial genotype for the parents, and cross these parents to produce the first generation of offspring. For the first generation, specific or random crosses of the offspring can then be performed to produce subsequent generations. For each generation a summary is provided showing the frequencies of each of the phenotypes, and students can also view the phenotypes of each of the individual offspring. The goal is to allow students to observe how the selected traits get expressed as a function of generation, and then from these observations determine and understand the genetic model governing expression of these traits.

In a Population experiment, students will be able to select an allele frequency within a population and manipulate different forces on that population to see how they affect the Hardy- Weinberg equilibrium. These forces and variables will include population size, allele frequency, mutation rates, genotype fitness, assortative and disassortative mating, and linkage disequilibrium. The goal is to demonstrate the basic principles of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and also the affects of population forces on this equilibrium.

Molecular Biology. The purpose of this laboratory is to allow students to extract a DNA sample from any of the available species, amplify a segment of the DNA using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), run a gel electrophoresis experiment on any of the amplified products, and place a sample in an automatic sequencer to determine the sequence of the amplified segments or genes. When setting up to run a PCR experiment, students must add the appropriate nucleotides, Taq polymerase, and select the correct primers to successfully amplify the desired segment. The student must also set up the PCR instrument with the correct temperatures and dwell times for the denaturation, annealing, and elongation steps. Once the gene sequences have been determined, these can be saved to the lab book for analysis or copied and used in other external analysis web sites.

Ecology. In this laboratory, students will be able to select species from the Species Selector and place them in a virtual environment defined by such variables as rainfall, seasonal temperatures, and elevation among other abiotic factors. Once the species and their initial populations have been selected and the environment defined, the species are then allowed to reproduce and interact, and the student can track the populations, biomass, or energy content of the selected species as a function of time. In addition to this basic functionality, abiotic factors can be changed or cataclysmic events introduced to investigate the effect on population equilibriums.

Systematics. The purpose of the Systematics laboratory is to allow students to classify a selected species into taxa using the traits or characters of the species. The classification can be performed using a traditional ranked system or simultaneously by building a cladogram-type structure or tree. The ultimate goal is for students to determine the taxonomy of a species or set of species to visualize the different taxonomic relationships. Various classification schemes are provided including a simple, Linnaean, three domain, six kingdom, and a scheme based on the Tree of Life. A glossary is also provided as well as several approaches to classifying the species.



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