Quantum Billiards

Quantum Billiards is a simulation designed to teach electron correlation—an important but challenging concept taught in Quantum Mechanics.

Platform

Mac/PC app

Launch Date

Spring 2017

Development Team

Dave Lasala, Creative Director
Rob Schwartzberg, Unity Programmer
Jiayan “Maggie” Li, UI Designer

Development Tools

Unity 3D (v5.3.4)

Summary

Quantum Billiards was developed in partnership with College of Arts & Science faculty member Daniel Turner, who wanted to create a simulation that would provide his chemistry students with opportunities to visualize quantum objects and their interactions in an immersive environment, and to promote the use of interactivity for learning. The resulting billiards simulation is designed to teach electron correlation—an important but challenging concept taught in Quantum Mechanics. The game contrasts classical physics with quantum physics by allowing the user to play in both a classical mode, where balls occupy a definite point in space, and a quantum mode, where balls act as a wave of probability of where the ball is most likely to be found. While Quantum Billiards is currently shared only as an additional resource for student learning, our team sees further opportunity to incorporate this simulation directly into a lesson.

Features

  • View classical, non-interacting electron model and independent electron model.
  • Control ball size, friction, number of balls and wall elasticity.

Lessons Learned

Dave: Quantum Billiards has several project similarities to the Parallax Simulation. Particularly in that it required a comprehensive understanding of the material in order to create the resulting simulation. The important lesson from this project is to understand the faculty’s intended student use case and deployment plan for the application, which strongly informs the design choices that define development. In the case of Quantum Billiards, we understood that the professor had the intention of using the resulting simulation as a study aid for students. That turned out to be true, but not under the conditions we thought. We incorrectly expected Quantum Billiards to be demonstrated in class, with supporting explanation. Instead, the topic of electron correlation was discussed as a part of a lesson, and a link to download the application was provided to students. If we had known this in advance, I would have advocated for explanative material to be built into the app. The resulting lesson; always confirm use case and deployment during project ideation.