Wolfram Tools Online: Demonstrations Project Reviewed

The Education Techie reviews tech tools that can help students and teachers. This week, the Techie is taking a look at tools from Wolfram Research. Today's review: the Wolfram Demonstrations Project.

demonstrations

What Is It?

The Wolfram Demonstrations Project is a part of the Wolfram Research website. The project is dedicated to collecting the interactive visual and video presentations made with Wolfram's Mathematica software.

Currently, the project has more than 6,900 live demonstrations. These cover topics ranging from science, engineering and math subjects to kids' activities, art, design, linguistics and optical illusions. The demonstrations focus on academic material, rather than on popular culture or other less educational topics. In order to watch or interact with a demonstration, users need to download Wolfram's CDF Player. The player is free, but the extra step of downloading it might be a turnoff for some users.

interactive demonstration

If you do get the CDF player, you can download individual demonstrations to your desktop so you can play them offline. I downloaded a demonstration based on the art of Piet Mondrian, a modern Dutch painter who is famous for linear compositions in primary colors. The content of the demonstration (pictured above) focused on illustrating the fact that it is possible to group multiple colors in a space without ever having the same color adjacent to itself. It had interactive features and a text explanation. It wasn't overly complex, but it was interesting to play with.

In order to add a demonstration to the project, you will need to be able to use Mathematica. This site is simply a venue for uploading and sharing already-created demonstrations. If you make a submission, Wolfram staff will review it before posting. It's free to participate in the project, though as mentioned above, you will have to own the right software to make a contribution. The guidelines for submitting demonstrations emphasize that content should be fresh, so it's a good idea to search through existing projects and make sure you're not repeating something that's been done.

What Are Its Pros and Cons?

Since you have to own, or have access to, Mathematica in order to make a demonstration, this is probably not the best way to make presentations for most people. As I noted in my review of that program, Mathematica is quite expensive, and it is a very complex product that is best used by professional scientists and scholars. For those with access to the proper software, though, the Demonstrations project is a great way to share knowledge with others.

Demonstrations' real strength is in the fact that so many people with valuable knowledge use it to share information. Though most people may not be able to add to the project, anyone can view it. The videos are often entertaining and visually appealing, and educators and students alike may find useful information. Teachers might even find some visual aids to use in the classroom. With a large number of demonstrations on a wide variety of topics available, the Demonstration site is likely to have something that interests you. And since it's free, you don't have much to lose in giving it a shot. You'll probably find something more useful on this site than on YouTube.

This is the second review in a series on tools from Wolfram Research. Previously, the Techie reviewed Mathematica and WolframAlpha. If you'd like more information about Wolfram Research, check out our interview with Conrad Wolfram. Stay tuned for more Wolfram product reviews this week!

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