Science outreach and public engagement

MolCraft | Molecules in Minecraft

Minecraft is a fabulous tool for exploring structures of buildings, landscapes and even anatomy. So why not molecules?

Royal Society of Chemistry logoSo as part of an undergraduate project, students in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Hull (and supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry) have populated a Minecraft world with structures of proteins, chemicals and even some chemical history.

You can download the MolCraft and run it locally on your own machine, explore the world via our server, or use the schematics of the molecules to populate your own worlds with molecules.

Whatever you do with it, please share your results with the Minecraft community and let us know what you are getting up to via email or twitter using the hashtag #MolCraft.

Downloads

Requirements

  • A licensed copy of Minecraft
  • More than 4GB of RAM

Installation

  1. Download the MolCraft world
  2. Start Minecraft
  3. On the home screen click 'Options'
  4. Click on 'Resource Packs'
  5. Then click 'Open resource pack folder’
  6. Navigate to the folder above (called .minecraft on Windows)
  7. Open the 'Saves' folder
  8. Move MolCraft folder to this 'Saves' folder
  9. Start Minecraft and select 'Single player'. Then select a world MolCraft.

Join the server

Server address: molcraft.nitrous.it

  1. Start Minecraft
  2. Select 'Multiplayer'
  3. Click 'Add server'
  4. Input the server address molcraft.nitrous.it
  5. Click 'Done'
  6. Select the server and click 'Join server'

Remember to follow safe internet practice whilst in the MolCraft server.

Do not ever give out any personal information about you. That includes real names, locations or anything else that could be used to identify you.

How we built MolCraft

Protein structures are stored in the protein database. We figured out how to port these into Minecraft. It is a process that involves a number of pieces of software, all of which are free. The workflow is detailed here. If you can figure out a quicker way please let us know!

Other molecules were built with the free software Avogadro and then ported into Minecraft using a similar system.

What am I looking at?

Chemists often build ball and stick models of molecules to help visualise them. The balls represent atoms and the sticks are bonds between them. By convention different atoms are represented by certain colours. We’ve stuck to this colour scheme by using dyed wool blocks.

Screenshot of atoms

Above: Histidine

White wool - Hydrogen White wool Hydrogen Sulfur Yellow wool Sulfur
Black or dark grey wool - Carbon Black or dark grey wool Carbon Green wool - Halogens Green wool Halogens
Red wool - Oxygen Red wool Oxygen Purple wool - Phosphorus Purple wool Phosphorus
Blue wool - Nitrogen Blue wool Nitrogen      


Proteins are long thin molecular chains with many branches coming off them. If we showed you all the atoms in the chain and the branches then it would just look like a right mess. So instead we’ve used another convention, where a ribbon represents the chain and all the individual atoms are not show (unless they are particularly important).

Screenshot of protein

Above: Myoglobin

What can I do in the MolCraft?

You can just explore and read the info about the molecules. But there are also a whole load of treasure chests dotted around filled with goodies, puzzles and quiz books. Some are easy to find, others are fiendishly difficult. If you locate them all then you’ll probably have learnt a fair bit of chemistry along the way!

MolCraft is available in the EDU world library for use in schools. If you are a teacher and want to use it then get in touch and we can provide you with more supporting information.

In the press

MolCraft has been featured in the following press:

BBC - Minecraft used to teach children molecular chemistry

Smithsonian - A Minecraft world built for exploring chemicals

CNET - Included in the 'Social Shot round-up and the 'Social Shot' video

Hipertextual - A great idea: to teach biochemistry in Minecraft

Wired - Molecules meet Minecraft in a world built for science class

Gizmodo - Scientists built this molecular playground in Minecraft to teach kids chemistry

Gizmodo Japan - Kids, learn chemistry!

Popular Science - Explore chemistry like never before, inside a Minecraft world of molecules

Motherboard - This Minecraft world teaches kids the basics of biochemistry

The Conversation - How Minecraft could help teach chemistry's building blocks of life

The Guardian - UK university aims to teach biochemistry to children using Minecraft

Royal Society of Chemistry - Molecules for Minecraft fans

University of Hull - Students create virtual reality world to teach scientists of the future

Acknowledgements

Minecraft is (c) 2009-2014 Mojang AB
Hull Chemistry Students: Joesph Haywood, Thersa Thirkill, Daniel McConnell, Jonathon Medcalf, Peter Webster, Connor Dallas
Mark Lorch, project lead
Joel Mills, Minecraft in education consultant

The work and running costs is supported by a public engagement grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Contact us

Science Outreach
Tel: +44 (0)1482 465103
Science.Outreach@hull.ac.uk
Interested in being updated on up and coming events? Sign up to join our network here.

Tweet us:

Faculty of Science and Engineering: @HullUniScience
Mark Lorch, project lead: @Sci_ents
Joel Mills, Minecraft in education consultant: @iLearningUK

Mark Lorch and Joel Mills

Mark Lorch, project lead (left) and Joel Mills, Minecraft in education consultant (right)

Back to top