Project Wonderland at the Chemistry Department, UWI-Mona

Educators are increasingly looking to technology to support teaching and learning. The Open Source Project Wonderland creates a virtual environment that was originally implemented to support business collaboration, in particular for the staff at Sun Microsystems, where on any given day many were telecommuting or absent from office yet needed to actively participate in meetings, etc. Following the takeover of Sun by Oracle the project was forked and the Open Wonderland Foundation established to continue development on the project. Wonderland promises a rich interactive visualisation experience that can focus, stimulate and motivate learning in a dynamic environment where the participant's avatars share and manipulate the objects of study in real time. The JAVA-based tool-kit supports desktop applications like Open Office, web browsers, voice telephony and the display of video and PDF files. Developers can incorporate their own JAVA applications and extend the functionality to create new worlds and new features within existing worlds.

At the Department of Chemistry at the Mona Campus of UWI, Jamaica we have established several Wonderland servers and have been testing the incorporation of Jmol (for molecular graphics) and JSpecView (for spectra) within these on-line environments. The results so far suggest that this will provide an excellent teaching and learning environment since users can interact with the displays and discuss these using a whiteboard or through the built-in audio and telephony features.

UWI Mona Campus Council Room
(A meeting held in Wonderland 0.5)

Jmol and JSpecView

A major factor in our choosing Wonderland was that Java applications can be incorporated into the world without any need for code changes. Thus Jmol and JSpecView run interactively in-world unchanged.
Molecular graphics and spectra can then be selected by clients and manipulated and with the full audio capability, discussions can be held detailing features being highlighted.
Since an Internet browser window can be opened within Wonderland, it is possible to display applets like Jmol and JSpecView from existing web pages.

Wonderland 0.4 screen dump
(A screen dump from Wonderland 0.4)

3D Models

We have developed an alternative approach by generating 3D Collada models of molecular shapes and spectra.

For Jmol, we achieved this by exporting the shape as a VRML(WRL) file, then using AccuTrans3D to convert this to .3ds and finally converting to a Collada file using Google Sketchup.

See Cr(oxalate)3 ion - first isolated by Wilton Turner in London, 1830. He was born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1810 and was the brother of Edward Turner - 1st Professor at the University of London (UCL 1828).
The models can be shown on web pages using the free 3D viewer
Once the model has loaded you can click in the right hand lower corner for Full Screen display

For JSpecView, we have done this by exporting as a SVG file (Inkscape version) then using Blender to extrude the spectrum to give it some width, then convert this to a .3ds file and again using Google Sketchup to create the Collada file.

IR spectrum of p-chloroaniline

H NMR spectrum of vinylpyrrolidone

Accutrans3D is shareware, Google Sketchup is freeware and Blender and Inkscape are Open Source.
The Google 3D Warehouse is a handy resource for finding predrawn models for use in Wonderland.
All of the models we have generated have been uploaded for general use.
Wonderland 0.5 screen dump
(A screen dump from Wonderland 0.5)

A virtual laboratory

We have started on a design of an online virtual laboratory featuring various instruments including spectrometers (or chromatographs). Eventually when the modules are fully functional we hope to be able to display spectral data harvested from either local sources or from remote databases.

Wonderland 0.5 screen dump
(A screen dump from Wonderland 0.5)

The first completed working module is of a Gouy Magnetic Susceptibility setup. In our teaching laboratory the Gouy experiment can take upwards of several hours to complete and with a class of over 100 students this is a major timetabling problem. In the module, a large electro-magnet is shown and the student is asked to select the voltage for generating the magnet field, then choose an empty tube and weigh it with the magnet switched Off then On, weigh a tube filled to a specified mark with water then choose a calibrant (from 3 standards) and finally a sample (from 6 different Chromium(III) complexes they might prepare in the Laboratory) and repeat the weighings with the power Off then On. An HUD shows the status and eventually gives the summary of all the recorded data. This data can be copied to a text editor or spreadsheet and the magnetic moment then calculated.
This module is part of an M.Phil project being undertaken by Mr Craig Walters.

Wonderland 0.5 Gouy Module screen dump
(A screen dump from Wonderland 0.5 showing the Gouy module)

The Gouy module is available for download 22nd January 2010 and is featured at the OpenWonderland Module Warehouse. This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

see the Wonderland Blog report

Symmetry operations in a 3D world

Many students indicate that the perception of molecular shapes in 3D causes real problems and the application of symmetry operations is worse. By having molecular models with mirror planes displayed in 3D where it is possible to view from all angles or walk through or over etc may help to alleviate some of these issues.
SF6 screen dump
(A Sketchup model of SF6)

Movie clips

We have prepared some short movie clips featuring a spectroscopy laboratory and a GC trace obtained from pimento berries. It shows the main features of the chromatograph as well as models for some of the volatile components found in pimento berries.

The files are LARGE > (10-20) MB so be prepared to wait for the transfer...
Spectroscopy Laboratory
GCMS instrument
GC trace
H NMR of vinylpyrrolidinone
Raman spectrum of vanillin

Other models created by Craig and freely available from the Sketchup 3Dwarehouse include this GC.


We are indebted to the Project Team for help throughout in our attempts to deploy Wonderland on our Solaris servers.
The instrument models were generated by Craig Walters and Dominique Lyew.

© 2009-2018 by Robert John Lancashire, all rights reserved.

Created and maintained by Prof. Robert J. Lancashire,
The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Created July 2009. Last modified 21st March 2018