27 Feb 2014

A Game with Orbital Cutouts

Submitted by Nancy Scott Burke Williams, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College

So, I've just tried something for the first time in our AISS course (Accelerated Integrated Science Sequence) to teach the idea of bonding overlap, andtibonding overlap, and orthogonal (non-bonding) interactions. 

I made a ton of paper cutouts of various 1s, 2s, 2p, and 3d orbitals from Chemdraw, and passed them out to tables of four, and I announced that we were playing a game of "BOA, BOA, BOA! (TM)". Their goal was to come up with ways of overlapping the orbitals to get "B", "O", or "A" interactions. They would overlap the paper orbitals, and I would tell them whether they had a B, O, or A arrangement. 

After several minutes, they were starting to see patterns. I then told them that these stood for Bonding, Orthogonal, and Anti-Bonding interactions, and they went back to finding more. I told them to create nine pairs to spell out BOA, BOA, BOA! as if it were Bingo. They seemed to have fun with it, and I had less confusion of antibonding and non-bonding than I usually do. 


Very cool!  In the past two years I've done something similar with my advanced inorganic course and MO theory.  We are a Miessler & Tarr class, so we do the FHF- diagram on one day and then on the next, CO2.  On the second day I bring them each an envelope with a group of carbon atomic orbitals (individual pieces of paper) and the LGO's for the oxygen atoms.  (Each LGO gets its own piece of paper.)  We add all the symmetry labels (with help from the D2h character table and our notes from FHF- reducible reps) and then they can slide their atomic orbitals in the gap between their oxygen orbitlas to see how the MOs form.

I haven't done any assessment of this and would be curious to do some.