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Akron Global Polymer Academy Lesson Plans

Chemistry of Coatings: A Scientific Inquiry Project

Grades: 7-12 Physical Science
Author: Emily Shaub
Source: This lesson is original. Lab section adapted from


The goal of this lesson is to introduce high school science students to scientific inquiry by creating and conducting their own experiment or engineering design under various constraints. The challenge is to create the "best" support beam out of epoxy resin using limited materials and a ratio of their choosing while being the most cost effective. At the conclusion of this lesson, students should have a better understanding of the engineering design matrix as compared to the scientific method and how the two work together to give a scientist meaningful insight. Students will also increase their knowledge of polymers and the importance of polymers in various coatings by conducting research on epoxy resins.


What should students know as a result of this lesson?

What should the students be able to do as a result of this lesson?


Consumable Materials (These materials should be enough for four classes of 30 students)



Before class-homework

Assessment: Discuss the sections that students viewed for homework.

Day 1

  1. Go through presentation of scientific method and engineering design matrix briefly if assigned as homework.
  2. Split the class into two groups and assign half the scientific method and the other half the engineering design matrix.
  3. Have students use their knowledge of the scientific method and knowledge of epoxies to come up with an experiment to create the best ratio of epoxy to hardener while analysing the cost.

Assessment: Students completion of sections in lab handout.


Days 2/3

  1. Students come up with their "ideal" ratio of epoxy to hardener depending on their research.
  2. Students then test this using all available materials.
  3. Students will then test their epoxy resin product by using the beam testing setup and using the three point flexural test (see Beam Testing Set Up Worksheet)

Assessment: Student design set up and the data collected form the beam testing will be formatively assessed. Students will also be evaluated on whether their design passes or fails with the three-point flexural test.


Day 3

Discussion - As a whole class, each group will share the information they gathered/observed. We will then discuss ways to expand on an experiment and how to redesign/retest. We will also discuss the importance of epoxies and where there are used in everyday life.

Assessment: Final Lab Report (Summative)


Day 3 - Student Lab Write-up

Assessment: Student completion of the lab handout/hyperdoc.

Day 4 - Extension/Differentiation (optional)

Assessment: Redesigning and test of their new beam.


Best Teaching Practices

Alignment with Standards

NGSS Standards:

HS-ETS1-2 Engineering Design

Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, and reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, culture and environmental impacts.

HS-ETS1-3 Engineering Design

Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

HS-PS2-6 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.

Ohio Standards:

Science Inquiry and Application - During the years of grades 9 through 12, all students must use the following scientific processes with appropriate laboratory safety techniques to construct their knowledge and understanding in all science content areas:


Chemistry-Structure and Properties of Matter

Content Knowledge

Students will need to have a basic working knowledge of the scientific method. Students will also need access to the internet to complete the pre lab assignment, research and final lab report.



Students will know that it is important to design a controlled experiment in order to obtain reliable data. Students will also see that the engineering design matrix is critical in the design and execution of a product that is dependable and cost effective. Students will also know the ideal ratio of epoxy to hardener in various systems and why this is important in coatings.


Other Considerations

Grouping Suggestions:

Pacing/Suggested Time:

This lesson will be a three-day lab with an optional added day for extension.

Printable PDF Worksheets

  1. Teacher Guide - Answer Key
  2. Student Lab Worksheet/Hyperdoc (Engineering or Scientific Method)
    1. Engineering Worksheet
    2. Scientific Method Worksheet
  3. Supplemental Handout - Beam Testing Set-up
  4. Presentation - Notes/Slides
  5. Rubric

Safety Disclaimer