Brief Description:

Students learn about different materials that bikes are made out of. Students learn about different factors, material strength, flexibility, cost, weight etc. that affect an engineer’s decision when choosing a material to use in constructing a prototype/real thing.

Grades: K-5

Time:   1 hour

Keywords:  material choices, strengths, weaknesses, materials, static load, dynamic load, friction, physical properties, chemical properties, mechanical properties, elasticity, yield strength, ultimate strength

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will learn about different physical properties of materials and how those characteristics affect an engineer’s decision when choosing a material to use when building.


  • Hot glue sticks
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Plastic spoons
  • Wire
  • Metal Rods (e.g. thin nail)
  • Activity Worksheet


  1. Engineers need to keep a lot of things in mind when choosing what material they will use in their designs.
    1. 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 braking, road’s surface (bumps, holes)
    2. Friction – or the resistance of the road’s surface. This factor affects the engineer’s 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.
  2. Materials that engineers choose for their designs must withstand all of these forces. There are three categories of material properties that enable bikes to function to suit different purposes
    1. Physical: Density, color, electrical conductivity
    2. Chemical: Reactivity, rust resistance, solubility, reaction to heat.
    3. Mechanical: hardness, stiffness, expansion, toughness

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