Dr. Hinsdale Bernard holds a photo of a model of
his patented three-dimensional Periodic Spiral.
It took thirty years for Dr. Hinsdale Bernard to achieve his goal of creating a three-dimensional Periodic Spiral for chemical elements that represent the buildup of the Periodic Table. This creative professor in the Ed.D. Learning and Leadership program in the Education-Graduate Studies Division in the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies was recently rewarded with a U.S. patent.
“Teaching chemistry with a three-dimensional model is just like teaching about the human body,” Bernard said. “We needed something more attractive, a little more exciting than flat boxes.”
Bernard developed the foundational model of the three-dimensional Periodic Spiral as a 1977 entry to a national science exhibition while he served as a high school chemistry teacher and science chairman at Northeastern College, Sangre Grande, Trinidad, West Indies. The entry did not win the competition, and Bernard said the “idea lay dormant for 18 years until my son, Roald, remembered the model. (Bernard would take him to his class as a toddler occasionally.) Roald encouraged me to resume work on the model. We worked intermittently on its further development and refinement for eight years beginning in 1995. It soon became a family preoccupation and my wife Barbara, daughter Ishara, and daughter-in-law Hamdellia were also involved in the final phases of its design to varying degrees.”
This model seems to be more intuitive, Bernard said.
“Besides being very aesthetically pleasant to the eyes, this three dimensional rendition of the Periodic Table of the Elements (3DPT) could provide a hands-on teaching/learning model that can facilitate an understanding of the basics of the chemical elements, in particular, and stimulate interest in science, in general. This invention can be used by students and their instructors from Pre-K through college/university levels. As such, it can be produced as an individual teaching/learning kit for use in the classroom or at home, and even in the form of an exciting toy/game for younger children to play with at home and learn about the elements vicariously,” Bernard said.
Bernard is having conversations with manufacturers to produce his product. He says the language in the patent could allow discs, cubes, squares or lighted bulbs. The product could be motorized, and it also has great potential for interactive computer application.
Although he describes the process for obtaining the patent as “arduous, like doing a dissertation it requires skill, research and facing the many questions of ‘what’s there?’ and ‘how is the product different from others?’” Bernard said the end result is gratifying. He believes that his journey may not have started at all had it not been for the organization of the national science exhibition and an invitation by his science education professor, Judith F. Reay to submit entries.
“I credit her with challenging me to extend my love of the sciences to the art and science of teaching and learning. I firmly believe that this is when I truly became hooked on education as a career and never looked back,” Bernard said.