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  • Published: 05/29/2017

So how does a French major design a virtual reality chemistry app?

“Chemistry is its own language, it’s all in how you put the parts together," saidalumnus  Steve Oprea, a marketing specialist with Shell Oil Co. in Houston.

Oprea knows a thing or two about foreign language. He majored in French and graduated from the College of Arts and Letters in 1990. He's using his love of languages to help get kids excited about science.

A Michigan native, he recently attended Make the Future Detroit Featuring Shell Eco-marathon Americas, a free festival that celebrated bright energy ideas and future energy solutions.

During the festival he showed off the company’s new educational app, Hydrocarbon Hunt, to several thousand students from Detroit Public Schools. It’s just one of his company's free educational resources to raise STEM awareness.

 The tools are available at:

The app, Hydrocarbon Hunt, is a game that introduces basic organic chemistry to students by challenging them to find 28 objects made from hydrocarbons in five different rooms of a typical home.

The free game, available in major app stores, can be played on most smartphones and tablets and has an option to play in 3D using virtual reality goggles.

"It's an interactive way to show how many products in our daily lives are made from hydrocarbons. I figured kids were going to play video games all summer, why not make one that’s educational and fun?" Oprea said with a smile.

He belongs to a six-person team that developed the app. It took over a year's worth of design, research, and testing. He credits the critical thinking skills he learned at MSU in helping him keep the project on track.

“Shell believes that supporting teachers and promoting STEM interest is key to creating a technical workforce to meet the energy challenges of the future.”

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