There are dozens of simulations here,
but I’ll highlight a few of my favorites.
The site includes a number of tool bench-es that allow you to build and test circuits
without setting the house on fire. Some of
the toolsets also include virtual meters to
help more advanced students study more
advanced topics, such as voltage and amperage or the difference between DC and
AC circuits. Other tools illustrate concepts
in electricity in an easy-to-visualize way.
• AC / DC Construction Kit
circuit-construction-kit-ac. A complete AC and DC simulator with
capacitors inductors and graphical
meters. Build your own circuit with
switches and light bulbs.
• Basic Circuit Construction Kit
circuit-construction-kit-dc-virtual-lab. A simpler lab suitable for late elementary and middle school experimentation.
• John Travoltage
travoltage. A hilarious simulation of
static electricity, featuring an online
“puppet” of John Travolta. Move John’s
feet on the carpet and see how static
electricity builds up in his body; then
touch his finger to the doorknob to
see and hear a jolt. This is ideally used
along with real-world exploration of
static electricity, even for younger
• Balloons and Static Electricity
balloons. After doing real-world experiments with balloons sticking to
walls with static electricity, use this app
to demonstrate the charges and to explain how static electricity works. Terrific for an elementary science class.
There are a couple of interesting apps
that allow you to experiment with light
and color. These can be appropriate for
younger grades, although there are certainly physics concepts to understand
with these apps as well.
• Color Vision
color-vision. This app explores the
additive color model used in compu-
ting (which is different than the sub-
tractive color model used in traditional
art). See how light of different frequen-
cies combines to create new colors.
The basic principles of chemistry can be
difficult to understand, but these interactive tools make it much easier to visualize the relationships between subatomic
particles, atoms, and molecules.
• Build an Atom
build-an-atom. Given “bowls” full of
neutrons, electrons, and protons, fit
the particles into an atomic diagram.
As you build an atom, you can see
where it lies on the periodic table. Observe how various atoms are grouped
on the periodic table, how isotopes
are formed, and what makes an atom
• Build a Molecule
build-a-molecule. You are given a series of atoms, and you’re challenged to
build a molecule, based on its chemical
name. Really helps students see how
atoms fit together to form common
• Reactants, Products, and Leftovers
reactants-products-and-leftovers. Begin by making sandwiches, and discover how ingredients can be combined to
make various sandwiches. Then see
how this relates to chemical equations.
• Balancing Chemical Equations
a chemical equation, drag and drop
parts of atoms to make the equation
balance. Helps to visualize one of the
most important concepts in chemistry.
sound. Place a speaker and a listener
in a room and play sounds of various
frequencies and amplitudes. Visual-
ize the frequency and amplitude while
listening (on headphones if you value
your relationship with the rest of the
family), and see how interference from
multiple speakers alters the sound, as
well as how sound bounces off of walls.
• Fourier—Making waves
fourier. This app allows you to build
complex waveforms by adding sine
waves of various frequencies. You can
build extremely complex waveforms and
listen to them over a speaker. Includes a
game that provides a complex waveform
and challenges you to recreate it.
The library was generated by a physics
department, so it’s not surprising that it
has especially good physics applications.
• Energy Skate Park
energy-skate-park. Draw a complicated curve on the screen, and watch
a skater maneuver your virtual skate
park. Great fun for younger kids, and it
demonstrates gravity, momentum, and
forces for older students.
• The Ramp:
phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/the-ramp. Free-body diagrams are a staple of
most physics classes. This interactive version allows you to set various parameters
and then see if your calculations match
the performance of the simulation.
• Gravity and Orbits:
gravity-and-orbits. Examine the solar
system and see how gravitational forces
affect orbits. Learn how orbits work,
and modify the variables that affect the
strength of gravitational attraction.
• Lunar Lander
lunar-lander. One of the oldest computer
games ever written, the basic problems
of landing a spacecraft without air resistance is still fascinating. This realistic
version is quite difficult but a lot of fun.
• Projectile Motion
projectile-motion. Of course it wouldn’t