Science Models for Inspiring Students

by B.H.S. Thimmappa

Scientific models help us to visualize or picture in our mind something difficult to experience directly or understand. Science, engineering, and technology models play an important role in motivating and awakening the curiosity levels of students beyond regular class activities and textbook experiments. A scientific model represents objects, phenomena, physical or chemical processes, or systems consistently and logically. They can help explain the principle of working or structural aspects and they can be used to make scientific predictions, explain observations or describe theories and laws. There are working and non-working models that demonstrate some scientific ideas, concepts, principles, or applications on a laboratory or industrial scale. The working models are the perfect representation of scientific concepts, engineering principles, and technology applications. Creating a working model of the human heart, wind turbine, solar cell, biogas plant, periscope, and astronomical telescope would make the learner understand the concepts of science and the practical aspects of constructing such a model. Simple water turbine or windmill models, vegetable battery kits, rain harvesting or drip irrigation systems, electronic stethoscope, magnetic crane, water level monitors, and safety house alarms can generate and sustain interest in science students to have a research career. It is used as a tool for understanding the natural world and helps people to understand abstract concepts. We can manipulate or update models to develop specific applications based on observed properties or features of products. Thus, models are central to scientific research and communicating explanations. It is a good practice to provide a modeling-based framework for meaningful and active learning to enhance student engagement in science.

 Science model exhibitions are educational activities that systematically help in the development or advancement of science. These physical 3D models to understand the natural world can be extended to make independent research models such as structural models, functional models, computer simulations, bonding models, and theoretical models, vital to the process of knowledge-building. The benefits of models include ease of use, safer to use, saving money, and helping us to visualize complex concepts in our minds. They help explain the past and present and predict the future by stretching our imaginations. These types of models help us understand the things that are too small (DNA) or too large (solar system) to have an overall view. It helps to visualize products, processes, or systems that are too fast to too slow to observe. The main limitation of scientific models is that they are not real, or do not behave exactly like the things they represent as they are human-made ideas to help us visualize concepts. Secondly, they cannot include all the details and some complex calculations require advanced computers. Conducting science model competitions in high schools and higher education institutions would encourage the students to actively participate in the event and the experiential learning from collecting the required materials, assembling them to generate a system, adjusting the process parameters, and creating product features to help them to proceed further on the learning curve. Science models can change the attitudes of students toward science and inspire them to enhance their motivation for learning science. The science museums located in different parts of the country have several science analog models to get exposure to learners on an educational tour. They include Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, National Science Centre, Delhi, Birla Science Museum, Hyderabad, Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, Bengaluru, Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Kolkata, Science City, Kolkata, Kerala Science and Technology Museum, Thiruvananthapuram, Gujarat Science City, Ahmedabad, Nehru Museum of Science and Technology, Kharagpur, Regional Science Centre, Bhopal, Science Park, Jaipur, Srikrishna Science Centre, Patna, and Science Centre, Surat

 Science is essential to our everyday life and research-level models inspire everyone to think critically about our planet and the universe around us. The scientific study that takes place in a living organism (in-vivo), in a test tube (in-vitro), or in a virtual setting using a computer (in-silicotakes the researcher to think in different directions. The generation of conceptual, mathematical, chemical, or physical representations of real-world phenomena that are difficult to observe provides insights and better understanding that helps scientists and the common people. For instance, a conceptual model can demonstrate the water cycle, where evaporation and transpiration lead to cloud formation and then precipitation forming rain or snow. Similarly, modeling radioactive decay by mathematical models helps us to illustrate and predict what happens to certain variables when parameters are changed. Manipulation of molecular structures of complex enzymes is an example of a chemical model. Lock and key, and induced-fit models of biological enzymes are quite popular in the science world. Ball and stick models representing chemical structures and models of buildings or human organs are examples of physical models. Space-filling models provide a fairly realistic 3D representation of what the molecule looks like. These simplified representations can be used to explain the features of products, processes, or systems and are used in most scientific disciplines, ranging from astrophysics to zoology, microbiology to mathematics, and chemistry to computer science. The purpose of scientific models, includes explaining scientific concepts, principles, and ideas to support pedagogical approaches in teaching science. We should also be aware of the role, limitations, and the purpose of the particular model being used in the given context. The vision to inspire and motivate the younger generation to achieve their full potential in science, engineering, technology, and medicine is necessary to help solve problems around the world. The development of efficient laboratory-level models of artificial photosynthetic prototypes or 3D modeling software for the bioprinting of tissues and organs could be a practical reality tomorrow. Already, lab-grown blood is given to people in the world-first clinical trial. The models help people from the general public to budding scientists to develop the critical thinking skills required to face the complex challenges of the world as we know it today and opportunities to live better for the next generation.



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6.      Hardman, M. A. (2017). Models, matter and truth in doing and learning science. School Science Review, 98 (365), 91-98.



About the Author:

B.H.S. Thimmappa is a writer from Udupi, India

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