Materials Testing





Name of Activity Materials Testing
Author Alana Lustenberger
Keywords materials, properties, building, sturdy, 4th grade, columbus, dipersio
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description This activity involves having students explore the properties of different materials so that they are familiar with them when they choose their materials for a future project.
Lesson Objectives: This activity can be used to prime the class for a long design project where the students will be responsible for selecting the materials they would like to use. It teaches them about the different properties of materials and helps them to understand that different materials are wanted/needed for different applications
Materials Needed: The materials we used were foam, paperclips, cotton balls, rubber bands, straws, and a worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: You can distribute the materials beforehand into separate bags, or just gather them from the center. Also make copies of the worksheet.
Procedure 1. Explain that all materials have different properties and that in this activity, the students will be exploring these. Make sure to mention that they will have to use what they learn today to pick the materials they will be using for future activities. 2. Pass out worksheets (or show it on the projector). Explain how each test is done and also talk about the ranking system. We did if the material stretches the most, give it a 6. If it stretches the least, give it a 1, and then order the rest corresponding to how stretchy they are within the 1 through 6 range. 3. Put the students in groups and pass out the materials. Make sure you stress teamwork and that both partners should be writing and doing the tests. 4. Bring the class together at the end and have students tell which materials were the stretchiest, heaviest, ect.
Reference 1
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) This was used for the service learning curriculum

Engineering and Conservation





Name of Activity Engineering and Conservation
Author STOMP
Keywords house, LEGOs, materials, found materials, resources, resourcefulness, conservation, Engineering Design Process, renewable, non-renewable
Subject Non-LEGO, LEGO Building
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will be asked to build a house (out of LEGOs or non-LEGO materials). Students
will not be aware that after the first house they will be asked to build a second house
using the materials that they have left over. This will continue until it is impossible for
the student to build more houses. This should lead to a discussion on resource use and
engineering while being aware of conservation.
Lesson Objectives: - To reinforce the Engineering Design Process.
- To teach students about the relationship between engineering and conservation.
- To teach students how they can participate in conservation.
Materials Needed: Planning Worksheet
Review of Activity Worksheet
One kit per pair of students
Preparation and Set Up: Make enough copies of the worksheet for each
student (attached)
Setup the PowerPoint presentation (attached)
Gather materials and make kits for students to use
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Engineering Design Process
Renewable vs. Non-Renewable
  1. Arrange students into pairs
  2. Discuss the Engineering Design Process. Tell the students that their task is to design and build a house. DO NOT TELL STUDENTS THEY WILL HAVE TO BUILD MORE THAN ONE HOUSE
  3. Pass out the planning worksheets and have students plan their design.
  4. When students have completed their designs pass out the kits and allow the students to build their design for 10 – 15 minutes.
  5. When students have completed their first house have students place their houses on a desk/table and sit back down.
  6. Next, tell the students that their next task is to build a house out of the left-over materials and that they house must meet the same requirements of the first house.
  7. Some students may not have enough materials left to build a second house, if this is the case, allow groups o combine resources so that they can build a second house.
  8. If all the students have enough materials to build a second house that meets the requirements, have the students build a third house. By the time the students get to the third house they should pretty much have run out of materials.
  9. When the students have finished pass out the second worksheet and then discuss as a class the following issues, you can use the attached powerpoint in this discussion:
  • What would you have done differently if you knew that you had to build more than one house?
  • How might this relate to the real world?
  • What if you were required to build a neighborhood and you only had a certain amount of timber/bricks?
  • What are some resources that we use a lot of?
  • Could we run out of these resources (are the renewable, non-renewable)?
  • What are some ways that we can conserve these resources?
  • What can you do personally to reduce your impact on the environment?
Extensions: If there is enough time at the end of this lesson have the students build three houses that
meet the requirements with all the materials to show that if you use fewer resources for
each house then you will have enough to build more houses.
Reference 1
Reference 2

Boat Building





Name of Activity Boat Building
Author Rachel Yu and Laura Nixon
Keywords boats, materials, float, water, weight, sinking, density, surface area, weight
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description The students build boats out of different materials and then float them in water and
place pennies on the boats until they sink.
Lesson Objectives: Determine what material and what shape of the boat will make the boat that holds the most pennies.
Materials Needed: Tin foil, paper, clay (NOT play dough), Legos, popsicle sticks, tape, pennies, water and basin.
Preparation and Set Up: For the first graders, we gave each group a different material and had them build a boat out
of it. Then, after their first trial, they could choose what material they thought would work
best and make another boat.
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Surface Area
Procedure x

Paper Towers





Name of Activity Paper Towers
Author STOMP
Keywords towers, constraints, materials, weight, Engineering Design Process, sturdy structures, strong shapes, architect, design, prototype, redesign
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will build towers out of a limited amount of materials that can hold up a set amount of weight (like a stack of books).
Lesson Objectives: To introduce students to the engineering design process.
To teach students about sturdy structures and strong shapes.
Materials Needed: For each student group:

Activity worksheet
18 inches of tape
5 paper clips
5 index cards
8 sheets of 8-1/2 x 11 paper
Some sort of weight to put on the tower (like a stack of books)

Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students into groups of 2.
- Gather materials and photocopy worksheets.
- Make a poster or handouts of the engineering design process.
Necessary Background The engineering design process is an eight step process that engineers use to design

1. Identify the need or problem
2. Research the need or problem
3. Develop possible solution(s)
4. Select the best possible solution(s)
5. Construct a prototype
6. Test and evaluate the solution(s)
7. Communicate the solution(s)
8. Redesign

You can highlight any of the following vocabulary in this lesson:

Engineering design process

  1. Begin the lesson by introducing the engineering design process. Explain how students will use the engineering design process in their lesson to construct a tower out of paper:
    1. Identify Problem: You need to build a tower that will support a weight (stack of books).
    2. Research: discuss as a class some ways that you might make your tower sturdy, like how to distribute the weight, what shapes might help you, etc.
    3. Develop Possible Solutions: The class will draw out some possible designs on a sheet of papers.
    4. Select the Best Possible solution(s): Student groups should discuss their ideas and select one design to actually build.
    5. Construct a Prototype: Students will build their towers
    6. Test and evaluate: Students will test their designs by placing the weight on their towers. Students can either tests their designs as they finish, or each group can test in front of the class when everyone has finished building. How much weight can the tower hold?
    7. Communicate the solution(s): Have students share their designs. Discuss as a class the following questions:
      1. What designs seemed to work the best?
      2. What were some ways that towers failed?
        1. did they tip over or crush?
      3. What were some shapes that worked best to hold the towers?
      4. What materials seemed to be most useful?
    8. Redesign: In this activity students will not actually redesign their structures, but you should discuss as a class how different groups might improve their designs.
Extensions: Have students redesign their towers. How does the second tower’s performance compare to the first? What were some design changes?
Reference 1

Designing a Parachute





Name of Activity Designing a Parachute
Author STOMP
Keywords parachute, string, weight, target, test, materials, air resistance
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will select one type of paper for their parachute (i.e. tissue paper, napkin, paper towel, etc.) based on what they think will work best. The students will make a parachute with the paper and string and attach a weight. The students will then test their parachute.
Lesson Objectives: To learn about air flow and materials.
Materials Needed: Tissue paper
Construction paper
Paper towels
1/4 lb Weights (a few batteries tied together would also work)
Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students into groups.
- Distribute materials.
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Air resistance
  1. Explain the concept of air resistance to the class.
    1. Air resistance is the force that acts on anything moving through the air. It is not very heavy so humans don’t notice it much. Without air resistance things would fall faster than they do. The more surface area an object has the more air resistance affects it. This is why parachuters use wide light materials to slow them down as they fall.
  2. Have students cut a circle with a 6 inch radius of a paper of their choice.
  3. Have students cut 8 12 inch pieces of string and tape them at equal distances around the edge of the canopy.
  4. Tape the other end of the string to the weight.
  5. Drop the parachutes from a decided height and see if it works.
  6. Repeat steps 2 – 5 with all the different papers.
  7. Discuss the activity as a class. Ask the students:
    1. What material worked best for the parachutes? Why?
    2. What didn’t work as well? why?
    3. What changes would improve your design?
    4. What about a larger or smaller canopy?
    5. What would happen if you added more weight?
Extensions: Take the paper material that worked best and test different sized parachutes.
Make parachutes out of different materials.
Have a competition to see what parachute can land most gently.
Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference 3
Reference 4
Reference 5

Challenge Swap





Name of Activity Challenge Swap
Author STOMP
Keywords swap, challenge, objective, materials, procedure, method, assessment
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will swap challenges that they design for each other and try to do the given challenge. The challenge must include an objective, a materials list, procedure, and methods of assessment.
Lesson Objectives: - To develop and plan activities.
- To review previous skills.
Materials Needed: - Paper and pencils.
- Additional materials to be decided by challenge writer.
Preparation and Set Up: n/a
  1. Have students create any design challenge they would like for someone else in the class.
  2. The challenge can have any focus or skill level as decided by the teacher. Give any constraints you want to the class.
  3. Have students create a materials list and methods of assessing his or her solution.
    1. Why does someone need to do this challenge?
    2. How will someone know if he/she has completed the challenge?
  4. Tell students to keep in mind the amount of time allowed for completing the challenge.
Reference 1

Bicycle Unit: Materials Testing





Name of Activity Bicycle Unit: Materials Testing
Author STOMP
Keywords material choices, strengths, weaknesses, materials, static load, dynamic load, friction, physical properties, chemical properties, mechanical properties, elasticity, yield strength, ultimate strength
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will learn about different materials that bikes are made out of. Students will learn about different factors, material strength, flexibility, cost, weight etc. that affect an engineers decision when choosing a material to use in constructing a prototype/real thing.

To apply this information, students will test and rate the strength of different types of materials. They will record the strengths on a chart and compare the different materials. Students will discuss the factors that affect an engineer’s choice of materials.

Lesson Objectives: - To explore the factors that affect material choices for a design.
- To compare strengths and weaknesses of different materials.
Materials Needed: - Hot glue sticks.
- Popsicle sticks.
- Plastic spoons.
- Wire.
- Metal Rods (e.g. thin nail).
- Activity Worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: - Print out enough worksheets for the class (either one per group or per student)
- Optional: Set up large version of real bike materials sheet.pdf or make copies for each group to look at.
- Arrange students into groups.
- Distribute materials and worksheets.
Necessary Background Engineers need to keep a lot of things in mind when choosing what material they will use in their designs.

A bike will have two types of loads. The Static Load – the bike frame must support itself – and the Dynamic Load – the bike frame must support changing forces of a cyclist’s weight, forces of pedaling and breaking, road’s surface (bumps, holes)

Friction – or the resistance of the road’s surface. This factor affects the engineers decision on what a tire should be made out of and how it should be designed. Road bikes want to reduce friction for faster movement v. mountain bikes, which want wide tires for increase friction to reduce falls.

Materials that engineers choose for their designs must withstand all of these forces. There are three categories of material properities that enable bikes to function to suit different purposes

Physical: Density, color, electrical conductivity

Chemical: Reactivity, rust resistance, solubility, reaction to heat.

Mechanical: hardness, stiffness, expansion, toughness

Different tests of mechanical strength are:

Elasticity: When a material can be bent and come back to its original shape.
Yield Strength: The point at which a material is bent and it keeps the new shape.
Ultimate Strength: The point at which a material is bent and it breaks.

Static load
Dynamic load
Physical properties
Mechanical properties
Yield Strength
Ultimate Strength
Chemical properties

  1. Explain the concepts mentioned in the Teacher Background section. Tell students about the things that engineers must keep in mind when choosing a material.
    1. Go over Static and Dynamic Loads, and discuss the differences.
    2. Go over friction on tires – when you might want more friction (mountain bikes) and when you might not (racing road bikes).
    3. Talk about physicalmechanical and chemical properties (e.g., physical – weight of the bike for easy of carrying; mechanical – the amount of weight the bike must hold without breaking; chemical – rust resistance for a long-lasting frame).
    4. Talk about elasticityyield strength, and ultimate strength and how these strengths are different and necessary (e.g., a bike frame should have a high ultimate strength but should not be easily bent, even if it does return to it’s original shape).
  2. Discuss why engineers choose certain materias and why they avoid others. Remind students that there are reasons other then strength. Talk about costs, looks, availability, appearance, durability, aerodynamics etc.
  3. As a class, go over the attached chart labeled “Real bike materials sheet”.
    1. Evaluate the differences between steel, aluminum, carbon and titanium.
    2. What are the pros and cons of each material?
    3. Ask students what material they would choose to build themselves a bike.
  4. Distribute materals to the class and give instructions on the activity.
    1. Tell them that they are researching the pros and cons of five different materials.
    2. Pass out the ‘Activity Worksheet’ and materials to be tested. Explain the test categories.
      1. Looks – rate from 1 – 10 the way this material would look on a bike frame.
      2. Weight – rate from 1 – 10 how heavy the material is.
      3. Cost – Rate from 1 – 10 the cost of the material (help students who do not know relative pricings).
      4. Elasticity – rate from 1 – 10 how much the material returns to its original shape when bent.
      5. Yield Strength – rate from 1 – 10 how easy is it to bend the material out of shape.
      6. Ultimate strength – rate 1 -10 how easy it is to break the material.
    3. Have students fill out the chart for the five materials.
  5. When the student have finished testing, have them return to their seats to discuss the activity. Ask:
    1. Which was the best material?
    2. Were any of the materials strong in all of the categories?
    3. What are the trade-offs to using one material over other materials?
    4. Which materials were the strongest (high yield strength and ultimate strength)?
    5. If you had to build a bike out of these materials what material would you choose?
    6. What are other factors we could have considered?
Extensions or Modifications: - Give students limitation, such as cost or weight, and have them choose the best material.
- Talk about what material would be best for a different item (cars, computers, kitchen appliances, etc.).
- Add different material to the list to test.
Reference 1
Reference 2

Switch to our mobile site