Professor Dwayne Bell

Dr. Dwayne Bell

Chemistry & Food Science

Dwayne Bell

The first time Dr. Dwayne Bell shrank himself down to the size of an atom for an up-close look at its structure was an eye-opening experience for him.

“I always understood the math behind it, but mentally I could never really picture it,” says Bell, who has been teaching Chemistry at Framingham State for nine years. “Now I’m able to shrink down and walk through sodium chloride and other minerals at the molecular level. I’ve been finding new joy from chemistry being able to see it.”

Bell is describing his experience with an Oculus Go Virtual Reality (VR) headset. Last year, he received a grant from the FSU Educational Technology Office (ETO) to purchase 18 of the headsets in order to bring VR into the University’s chemistry labs. COVID-19 has halted the effort for the time being, due to the logistics around trying to share headsets during a pandemic, but Bell believes that VR has the potential to revolutionize the teaching of the sciences and beyond.

“I want Framingham State to be among the earliest adopters of this technology,” says Bell. “It’s too powerful a medium not to explore.”

The Oculus Go is a headset that goes over your eyes and provides an immersive VR experience. Each headset comes with a wireless, orientation-tracked remote controller with pointer capabilities that is used to interact with the virtual world. According to Bell, the educational demo programs provide accurate depictions of everything from the size of the structures to how far apart they are to how fast they are moving.

Bell, who describes chemistry to his students as the “most magnificent subject ever studied by the human mind,” is also working on a project to create 360 VR laboratory experiences that can be done from home using a smart phone, laptop or VR headset. He is acquiring a GoPro Fusion 360-Degree Digital Camera and software for the effort.

“VR laboratories won’t replace performing operations in the lab yourself, but it’s close,” he says.