Max Ruge greets me in Eagle EMS’s office with a sunlit smile and oozing enthusiasm. As I put down my bag filled with human rights textbooks, Max pulls out his laptop to show me examples of his and his friends’ brainchild, a website they’ve named Orgo Made Simple. As someone who has been spared the adventure that is Organic Chemistry, I am in awe over the carefully and thoroughly solved problems. Though I don’t know how Orgo is taught at BC, I can imagine that it is not taught like this. Eager to understand, I look towards my illuminated tutor bearing a smile.
Hi, Max. So let’s start at the most basic level, what is Orgo Made Simple?
Hi, Grace. Orgo Made Simple is an online Organic Chemistry textbook, that is not meant to take the place of class, but supplement it. It’s made out of easy, simple language, and not with any of the complexities of a normal textbook. The site explains the hardest concepts by breaking them down into the easiest concepts. We also put tons of problem sets and solutions on the site since those are the biggest things in Orgo, and the best way to really learn and practice the material.
Very cool. How did you get the idea for the site?
Well, the idea was initially mine. I tutored at O’Connell, and the team and I there saw that Orgo was really hard for so many people, and it’s the class that tends to add insane amounts of stress for students. We wanted to reduce that amount of stress and thought the best and most accessible way to do that was through an online, free source that anyone can access and learn from.
How did you go about creating it?
We all underestimated the amount of work [Max laughs]. All of us were working full-time jobs this summer, so compiling and creating everything, going over it all, it was a lot to manage. We divided the tasks: Chris Karousatos did the graphic design, Andrew Francl worked as the web designer, and me, Elaine Hynds, and Alex Lucas tackled content. We all did our respective jobs; it took an incredible amount of time, but we did it thanks to our huge group effort.
How did you guys come together originally?
We all brought something absolutely essential to the Orgo team. I was lucky to come across Chris and Andrew. Elaine and Alex knew the material really well. A lot of it was luck that we all had important skills that the others didn’t, and we meshed well.
So what content can students find on the site right now?
There’s slightly less than a first semester of Organic Chem on there now.
We’re continuously adding as much as possible. It’s definitely a work in progress. The other thing we’re working on is getting word out about Orgo Made Simple. When people find out about it, they use it frequently and for lengthy times which is very cool. 80% of our traffic comes from BC right now, and we just went live a few days before the school year started. It’s still brand new, just a baby!
How does one go about creating such a legitimate, functioning site?
If we used the textbook to write the chapters, we’d be biased to what the textbook says. I’ve tutored through multiple cycles, so me, Elaine and Alex have been approaching the material looking for the best way to reorganize, not just rephrase it. The goal is to make it easiest way to understand.
Reasonable goal. What about long-term goals for the site?
To help as many people as possible. I know its nearly impossible but we want people to know that Orgo is really like any other class. It’s not easy but it is something that can be learned with time and studying. That’s why we want to provide the best tools possible. It would also be unbelievable to get other schools, outside of the greater Boston area, to start using our side. We’re always looking for new ways to spread the word. It’s harder than it seems because if a professor sends out the link to his class, he’s endorsing our site and all of our content, which is a big deal. A professor here at BC did that, actually which was very exciting.
I’m happy to help spread the word. One last question for you, Max: Why does Orgo stand out as the notorious terror that it has a reputation of being?
[Max laughs.] The hardest thing about it is that the way of thinking involved isn’t like any other class at BC. You read the textbook, do the problems, and study, but when you go into the exam and it’s a question you’ve never seen, it seems completely different. You have to apply concepts and understand the basic concepts in the first place to apply them. It’s more about the tools than the content.
For those of you who are Pre-Med or Bio or Chem majors (or science people with some free time on your hands), definitely check out orgomadesimple.com. You’ll be happy you did (and your GPA will thank you). Thanks Max and friends!