3D Bohr Model Project Ideas

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Bohr model is integral to our modern understanding of atomic structures. These project ideas can help your students explore the Bohr model by making 3D models of their own.

The Bohr Model

When teaching students about atomic structure and the differences between the chemical elements, the Bohr model (also Rutherford-Bohr model) is foundational knowledge. This model of the atom, with its dense nucleus and orbiting electrons, is very important in the history of our current ideas about the atom. As the Bohr Model envisions electrons revolving around the nucleus, this structure is not always best envisioned in a 2-dimensional image. These 3D models will let middle and high school students picture the atom in a form more accurate to the model that Bohr predicted.

Hanging Mobile

For this project, students are going to make hanging mobile models of an atom. To do this, students will hang a string (fishing string works well) from a support. Students will then create a series of rings representing the orbits of the electrons. How students make these rings may depend on time, resources, and craftiness, but viable materials include basic wires, cardboard, or paper plates cut into rings. These rings will be attached to the mobile's string. If your students enjoy engineering challenges, ask them to attach the rings so that each rotates independently. In the center of the string, students will attach a set of ball objects to represent the electrons and neutrons of the nucleus. These can be made of marbles, craft poms, or any other round object.

  • Materials: Fishing string or other suspension wire, base for the mobile, supplies for rings/electrons/nucleus as desired, art and craft supplies as desired


Divide the class into groups and assign each an atomic element. After researching their element, students will work together to create a living Bohr model of their atom. To create their living model, they will need to create an outline for their model on paper. Students will have to designate the location of the nucleus and draw the orbits of the electrons. This will translate into a chalked area when they create their living model. If you wish to increase the difficulty of this, you may ask students to calculate the relative spacing between each orbit/shell. To populate the atom, students will designate individuals to cluster together excitedly in the center. The remaining students will run in circles along the trajectory of the orbits. The parts of the atom must be clearly delineated. This means that all electrons, neutrons, and protons must be distinguished and easily identified. Students may consider matching colored shirts (protons in red, neutrons in blue, etc.), distinct hats for each, or something similar. Once students have a plan in mind, they will chalk out their areas and practice. When everyone is ready, each group will present their atom to the class. After presentation, have a group discussion about each Bohr model.

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