Editor's Note: The original version of this article misspelled Jonathan Barndt's name. The "STEM Talent Expansion Program" was also incorrectly referred to as the "STEAM Talent Expansion Program." This has since been corrected. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.

Jonathan Barndt, a junior computer science major at the University of New Mexico, has created a new smartphone app that observes atoms with a 3-D view, something no other app is capable of doing.

The app, the Atom Visualizer, uses augmented reality to create 3-D perspective observation of atoms, using a camera on a smartphone, so that the atom can be viewed on any surface the person chooses.



Barndt’s journey in creating this app started when he began a National Science Foundation internship in the summer of 2017. For eight weeks, he worked with Signal Garden through the National Science Foundation STEP, or STEM Talent Expansion Program.

During the internship, he was assigned to create an app that helps users better observe atomic shapes. It was the first app that was made using Google’s ARCore, a technology that made augmented reality available to the public.

“I am really interested in augmented reality. I made this specifically for Android devices with this company associated with Google,” Barndt said.

The app works by first tapping a button that lets you access the periodic table to pick one of the 118 elements provided, using the Bohr Model, which shows the the atom as a shell that contains nucleus and electrons in a orbit surrounding it and a model which presents the atom as a electron cloud.

In early September 2017, Barndt launched his app with the help of two engineers, Dylan Hart and Omar Shaikh, through the NSF-funded STEP program, and he created his app in just eight weeks. The app is made through ARCore, Google’s reality phone technology and is compatible with iPhone 8, that has AR ability. The app can be downloaded from Google Play, and users can also learn more about an element with the Wikipedia button feature.

Barndt received much support from his internship mentor, Charles Boyle, who said, “Jonathan's vision was executed in entirety. It was ambitious to propose a scientifically accurate application that would use cutting-edge technologies that were, at the time, pre-release and not completely stable.”

Boyle praises the project, which stands out by “the use of scale to present views of the smallest building blocks of the universe in an immediately understandable way. Smashing atoms into each other and watching the nuclei fly apart is great fun as well.”

“Reflecting on augmented reality will become ubiquitous,” he said. “As Tim Cook (CEO, Apple Inc.) said recently, ‘AR is profound. We will look back at the start of this like the introduction of the mobile phone.’ It will become part of everyone's life in a transparent and integrated fashion and support education throughout people's whole lives and lifetimes.”

Ludella Awad is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @LudellaAwad.