Since 1997, the Science Museum's Challenge of Materials gallery has proved popular with the public and educational groups.
This CD-Rom is based on information stations in the gallery and has additional facilities for searching and processing. The assignments and activities in the support material are for students of advanced physics and chemistry and GNVQ science courses, although there is much for GCSE and Standard Grade students. Teachers of history, geography, technology and careers will also appreciate the extensive databases.
To get the best from the software, check the specification against what is possible with your PC. On older machines it may require a certain degree of IT dexterity to access the process animations and the pictures may lose some of their clarity.
David Sang and Janet Taylor have assembled an attractive, fascinating and extensive resource. The section on material facts includes ceramics, composites, metals and polymers; making things describes processes from blow moulding to welding; and the list of interesting objects ranges in time and space from Roman concrete to space shuttle tile. There are also profiles of people from 17 different careers linked with materials. Interactive activities and quizzes, with their encouraging prompts and congratulations, could keep even the most reluctant students enthralled. At the click of a switch they can view from normal size to the atomic level.
For those wishing to enrich, enliven or merely extend their courses this package is well worth exploring.
Hugh Rippin is former head of chemistry at Chenderit High School, Oxfordshire