Free/Low-Cost Periodic Table Teaching Tool for the Visually Impaired

By Hari Bhimaraju on Mar 10, 2015

I am a student at Kennedy Middle ​S​chool in Cupertino, California and ​I am working on making a tool to help the visually impaired learn the atomic structures for all the elements in the periodic table. ​ ​I am really excited to see if anyone would be willing to give me feedback. I would love for it to be used! ​ Here are the details of what I have been doing.

  • I have been fascinated with the periodic table of elements and began studying it.
  • I began to realize that the grouping in the periodic table is actually based on the element's atomic structure.
  • The groups are what show the elements behavior and reactivity.
  • So I started learning about atomic structure and how electrons populate the different orbits.
  • I figured out that this is not just filling orbit by orbit sequentially, but that there is actually a much more complex pattern to it.

Electron Configuration

  • How electrons are distributed in the different orbits of an atom is called "Electron Configuration".
    • Electron Configuration is really important. It is the notation of how electrons are arranged in the atom.
    • It helps to predict chemical behavior and chemical bonding.

Valence Electrons

  • Valence electrons are the electrons in the outermost orbit of an atom.
    • These are very important because they are the electrons hat get to jump between atoms and participate in forming chemical bonds.
    • Each group in the periodic table is actually based on the number of valence electrons in that atom.

Tool to Teach Students about Atomic Structure

  • I developed a tool to teach students the atomic structure of any element in the periodic table.
  • It asks the user to enter any atomic number. Then it prints the element details including:
    • Element Name
    • Atomic Number
    • Chemical Symbol
    • Group
After that:
  • It draws a model of the atom while printing the electron configuration, so that students understand how the electrons fill the orbits.
  • Next, it prints the valence electron configuration.
  • As each valence electron is drawn, a "beep" sound is made, so the student can hear it.

Lewis Dot Notation


  • There is a short form notation of an atom in which only the valence electrons are shown around the chemical symbol of an atom.
  • This is called Lewis Dot Notation.


  • A breadboard is a little rectangular object which is used as an electronic circuit.
  • On a breadboard, my tool lights up LED's in the same way as Lewis Dot Notation has dots for valence electrons.

Adapting the Tool for Students with Visual Impairments

My sister runs an organization called Donum Visi (Gift of Vision in Latin --, so as I saw her work and contributed articles to her newsletters, I got this idea to also help the visually impaired to learn these FASCINATING concepts.

Therefore, I added a voice to ask the user to enter an atomic number. Then, using a braille keyboard, they can type in any atomic number. My product will, in return, read aloud the element name, atomic number, chemical symbol, group number, and electron configuration, and valence electrons. Though they can't see the atom being drawn, using the information they heard, they can predict the reactivity and behavior of the atom! In addition, if there are any people with very low vision (such that they can't see things on computer screens, but they can make out glowing lights), they can still see the bright LED's on my breadboard that show the Lewis Dot Notation. This would give them a visual on the valence electrons, which might help them understand more about the element.

​The tool can immediatly be used anywhere with a computer (except that the LEDs would'nt work). Also, if there is a braille printer in handy, the atomic model that is drawn on the screen can also be printed for the visually impared to see. In addition, even the complete solution which also includes a computer (Raspberry Pi) and LEDs i less than $50, and my parents would be happy to donate it. I think this would be a great opportunity for the visually impaired students to learn, just like I d ​o!​ ​

I would love to meet students who would be willing to try out my tool, so I can take their feedback and improve it!

I developed all this on Raspberry Pi and it is a very compact, low-cost tool.

  1. I used braille stickers so that my keyboard can be used by the visually impaired (Seen in video).
  2. If there is a Braille Printer, the atomic structure that is drawn can also be printed besides being heard.
  3. The valence electrons can be heard with beeps as the LED's light up (Seen in video).
  4. If the Raspberry Pi is used, the LED's can also be seen by the low vision students (who can see the difference between light and dark, but can't see specific details).
  5. Everything except the LED's can be made a free, web-based tool.
  6. Even with the LED's, this is a very low-cost (less than $40) tool including a complete computer (Raspberry Pi).
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