SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: Smart Concrete - An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6-12)

Objective:


Framework for K–12 Science Education: ESS3.B: Natural Hazards PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter PS2.A: Forces and Motion ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World


Introduction Notes:


Science of innovation

Smart Concrete

An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6–12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
and the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning

 

About the Video

This video discusses the age-old material known as concrete, and how modern innovations could change the way in which the stability of this composite is determined. Dr. Deborah Chung, an expert in composite materials and structural science at The State University of New York at Buffalo, has developed a new type of concrete, dubbed “smart concrete,” which is composed not only of the basic ingredients of any concrete—water, a cement binder, and gravel—but also carbon fibers. These fibers easily conduct electricity, and can be used to measure conductivity across a block of the smart concrete. According to Chung, any changes in its resistivity might indicate the presence of minute cracks or other types of deformation in concrete structures long before they are visible to the naked eye. While Chung’s innovation is not yet commercially available, she has patented her invention and continues to do research on this innovative material that is able to sense, in real time, the forces to which it is subjected.

 

0:00     0:14     Series opening

0:15     1:06     Concrete and its many uses

1:07     1:21     Defining innovation

1:22     1:39     Introducing Chung

1:40     2:50     Chung’s smart concrete

2:51     3:07     Potential benefits of smart concrete

3:08     4:29     Laboratory testing of Chung’s innovation

4:30     4:46     Patent for composite material strain/stress sensor

4:47     5:11     Summary

5:12     5:24     Closing credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Framework for K–12 Science Education

      ESS3.B: Natural Hazards

      PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

      PS2.A: Forces and Motion

      ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

      ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology

      ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

(page 1)

Emphasize Innovation

 

The Innovation Process

Inspiration

The innovation highlighted in Science of Innovation (SOI): Smart Concrete is the development of a new type of concrete material with built-in electrical sensors to detect stress before the impacts of stress become visible. Dr. Chung and others think this technology would be an innovation in this building material, so that any deformation and failure in roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures made from concrete might be detected before they are visible.

 

Take Action with Students

Discuss with students the impetus for Dr. Chung’s inspiration to add carbon fibers to concrete. One way to look at it is that she was simply experimenting with materials to see what would happen. Guide students to understand that (1) she had experience with the properties of concrete and structural materials, and (2) she knew that carbon fibers are able to conduct electricity. She didn’t know beforehand whether this combination would result in any significant discovery, but was able to recognize the importance of the discovery once she analyzed the results from her experiments.

 

Innovation and STEM

The innovation highlighted in Science of Innovation (SOI): Smart Concrete incorporates many aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. For example, required science knowledge includes an understanding of the properties of the components of concrete and the chemical reactions that form it.  Also, the understanding of electrical conductivity is at the heart of what makes concrete a “smart” concrete.  Math concepts involve   calculations that enable comparisons of deforming actions. Starting with a vision and relying on science and math knowledge, Chung and her colleagues improved on concrete building technology by adding carbon fibers to concrete, which gave the composite electrical properties. By monitoring changes in resistivity, the fibers in the smart concrete become deformation sensors in real time. The engineering design process involved is limited by constraints related to materials, time, and costs. Although Chung’s smart concrete is not yet commercially available, its development will likely include various economic, safety, manufacturability, and sustainability constraints.

 

Take Action with Students

         Encourage students to work within constraints to model their own smart concrete by developing a composite material that is conductive and that changes its resistivity when it becomes deformed, using the Design Investigations section of Facilitate Inquiry as a guide. As a class, set up constraints within which students will have to test their ideas, such as: providing a limited selection of materials with which to work; developing a composite with a minimum resistivity value; limiting the size or mass of the composite being explored; and/or defining the minimum or maximum amount of force that can be exerted to deform the composite

         Brainstorm with students a list of uses for concrete. Then have students suggest how they might change the properties of concrete to make it “smart” for any given use. For example,

 

(page 2)

concrete used on an outdoor basketball court might be somewhat soft or spongy for

running and jumping. Structures in earthquake-prone areas would benefit from concrete that is somewhat flexible. Concrete barriers might be more effective if water were allowed to seep through slowly instead of being impermeable to water. Ask students how changing the properties might be done and what science knowledge they might need to do so.

 

 

Facilitate Inquiry

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 8.

 

Explore Understanding

Guide a discussion to find out what students know about the materials associated with smart concrete, and their properties. Use the following or similar prompts to start students talking:

         Cement and concrete differ in that….

         The nature of concrete can be described by….

         The kinds of materials that go into concrete are….

         Some forces that impact concrete structures are….

         You usually experience electricity when….

         Resistivity and conductivity relate to electricity by….

 

Show the video SOI: Smart Concrete and encourage students to take notes while they watch. Continue the discussion of composite materials and how the composite known as concrete can be given electrical properties using the following or similar prompts:

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         Concrete is called a composite material because….

         The experts in the video claimed that….

         Conductive materials are those that….

         Examples of some materials that do not conduct electricity are….

         The experts in the video gave concrete electrical properties by….

         Changes in the electrical properties of a composite like smart concrete could mean that the material….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Then have small groups list questions they have about how to make a composite that conducts electricity.  Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. Some examples are:

         What types of materials best conduct electricity?

         What types of materials best resist the flow electricity?

         What types of materials both conduct and resist the flow electricity relatively equally?

         What factors affect the resistivity of a material?

         How does resistivity change as the result of deformation of a material?

 

(page 3)


Design Investigations

Choose one of the following options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level and your available materials. Actual materials needed will vary greatly based on these factors as well.

 

Possible Materials

Allow time for students to examine and manipulate the materials you have available. Doing so often aids students in refining their questions, or prompts new ones that should be recorded for future investigations. In this inquiry, students might use commercial and/or homemade modeling clay of different colors, plaster of Paris or dental plaster, water, craft sticks, aluminum foil, steel wool, and/or powdered graphite or mechanical pencil “leads” that vary in thickness and hardness, to make rigid composites that conduct electricity and that can be deformed to determine if their resistivity changes as the result of the forces exerted on them. Exerting force on the composite samples can be done using kilogram masses, vise grips, C-clamps, a workbench vise, or a simple hydraulic press or car jack.  Students will need multi-meters or conductivity probes to measure the resistivity and any changes in the electrical property of their composites. Make sure students understand and know how to use these tools safely prior to the activity.

 

Safety Considerations

To augment your own safety procedures, see NSTA’s Safety Portal at http://www.nsta.org/portals/safety.aspx.

 

Open Choice Approach(Copy Master page 8)

Groups might come together to agree on the design of their own ‘smart’ composite material and carry out testing on it, or each group might explore different types of composites. Remind students of the design constraints established in the Innovation and STEM: Take Action section. Students should brainstorm any and all ideas in order to plan their strategies. Use prompts similar to the following to spark the process of creative thinking:

         The materials we will use include….

         The steps we will follow are….

         We will test our designs by….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

Focused Approach(Copy Master pages 9–10)

The following exemplifies one way students might design and test a composite from plaster of Paris or dental plaster and mechanical pencil “leads” that mimics the smart concrete discussed in the video.

1.      Allow time for groups to examine all of the materials available to them. Give students free rein in determining which materials they plan to use as long as they can justify their choices. Remind students of the design constraints established in the Innovation and STEM: Take Action section. Encourage students to think about how they can make a composite similar to smart concrete, using prompts such as the following.

         Concrete is a composite made of….

         We can model concrete using _____ because….

 

(page 4)

         We are not going to use _____ because we think it/they will….

         In terms of electricity, the resistivity and conductivity of concrete is….

         Pencil “lead” is a mixture of….

2.      Ensure that students understand the concept of electrical resistivity. Review what electrical resistivity is, how it is measured, and the factors that impact it.

3.      Students may need a tutorial before using the multimeter. Demonstrate how it can be used to measure the resistivity across a mechanical pencil “lead” while providing these prompts:

         The black lead and red lead of the multimeter should be plugged into_____ because….

         If the leads are touching, the resistivity….

         To measure the resistivity across a composite, the leads….

4.      To make a composite that mimics some of the properties of smart concrete, students could use a craft stick to mix some dental plaster with water in a small open box made of aluminum foil until the mixture has the consistency of toothpaste. Students could quickly insert about two dozen mechanical pencil “leads” into the mixture, making sure that they are covered by the plaster, and then allow the composite to completely set. They could then measure the resistivity across the composite, apply compressional force to the material without cracking or destroying it, and re-measure the composite’s resistivity. Help students visualize this procedure using these or similar prompts:

         In our model composite, the dental plaster represents….

         We will give our composite electrical properties by….

         We will measure the resistivity of our model concrete _____ times because….

         We will apply compressional force to our composites to….

5.      Students might further investigate composites made from commercial modeling dough or clay and mechanical pencil “leads” or powdered graphite, and compare their results to their original composites.

 

Media Research Option

Groups might have questions that are best explored using print media and online resources. Students should brainstorm to form a list of key words and phrases they could use in Internet search engines that might result in resources that will help them answer the question. Review how to safely browse the Web, how to evaluate information on the Internet for accuracy, and how to correctly cite the information found. Suggest students make note of any interesting tangents they find in their research effort for future inquiry. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Words and phrases associated with our question are….

         The reliability of our sources was established by….

         The science and math concepts that underpin a possible solution are….

         Our research might feed into an engineering design solution such as….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, ensure that they record their observations and measurements. Students should analyze their observations in order to state one or more claims. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… I claim… because….

 

(page 5)

An example claim might be:

As evidenced bymy measurements, I claim that forces can change the properties of a composite even though the changes are not visible to the eye because the resistivity of my composite changed (increased) after being subjected to compressional force.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with those of others—such as classmates who investigated the same or similar questions; material they found on the Internet; experts they chose to interview; or their textbooks. Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as:

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My results were similar to those discussed in the video because my composite was hard, like real concrete, and was able to conduct electricity like smart concrete does. Also, like the expert in the video explained, when I subjected my material to compressional force, it didn’t develop any visible cracks, but its resistivity did change.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before. Ask groups to give short presentations about their investigations and encourage questions from the audience on their thinking process as well as their procedures and results. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         I claim that my ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the experts, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 11.

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Bellringer:  Play the video from the beginning to 0:30 without the sound to introduce students to the composite called concrete. Then ask students to hypothesize why concrete is used to build the roads, buildings, and other structures shown in this segment of the video. If needed, help students conclude that the material is strong, cheap, easy to make, and can withstand great compressional forces.

 

Compare and Contrast: Replay the video segment from 1:45 to 2:23, in which conductivity and electrical resistance are discussed. Define the terms for students and explain, if needed, that electrical resistance is the inverse of conductivity.

(page 6)

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these Es:

Explain:  Use the information in the video and students’ results from the Design Investigations section of Facilitate Inquiry to support your lessons on forces, electricity, and matter.

Extend:  Have students do research to find out about ways in which smart concrete could be used in earthquake-prone areas, to monitor traffic flow patterns during an evacuation, or in coastal areas that depend on levees to keep flood waters at bay.

 

Connect to … Math

Cost Comparisons:  Smart concrete is not currently economically feasible as its costs are about 30% greater than those of conventional concrete. Have students research to find out how the cost of a certain volume of conventional concrete compares to the same volume of smart concrete. Challenge them to compare these two values to the cost of repairing or replacing a traditional concrete structure that has failed and the cost of a structure made from smart concrete. Ask students to reflect on and estimate additional, non-material-related costs that may be associated with concrete/structural failures.

 

Prompt Innovation with Video

After students watch the video, have them research patents associated with smart concrete. They can do so with an Internet search on Google.com/patents using search terms such as the following. If time is limited, point students toward the patent examples.

 

         Electrically conductive fibers

         Stress

         Strain

         Tensile

         Tension

         Composite/building material

         Carbon fibers

         Carbon nanofibers

         Resistance/resistivity

         Conductivity/conductance

         Elongation

         Cement/concrete

         Sensor/gauge

         Load

 

Patent Examples

US 5,379,644 – method for detecting strain or stress of a structure

US 5,422,174 – electromagnetic wave shielding building material

US 5,581,039 – ceramic/concrete body subjected to stress and undergoes gradual change

US 6,079,277 – strain or stress sensor

US 6,276,614 – strain sensor formed in a sheet shape from composites

US 7,921,727 – sensing system for monitoring the structural health of a structure

 

Suggest students read abstracts of patents that attract their attention. Then hold a discussion about how various innovators are improving on the process. Use prompts such as the following:

         This patent is for _____, which is related to the invention shown in the video by….

         This patent describes _____, which differs from the invention shown in the video in that….

         I think doing/making _____ would be an innovation because….

 

(page 7)


Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Smart Concrete

Use this as a guide to make and test a composite that can be compared to smart concrete. Record all of your notes and observations in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose your materials and brainstorm with your teammates to discuss how you will make and test your composite. Take notes on your discussions. Use these prompts to help you:

         The materials we will use include….

         The steps we will follow are….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record and organize your data and observations using tables and/or graphs.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your results and make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your design with classmates who made and tested the same or a similar composite. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My findings are similar to (or different from) the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) what I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         I claim that my ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson in that….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the experts, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

(page 8)

 


 

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Smart Concrete

Use this guide to make and test a composite that models smart concrete. Record your notes and observations in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How can we make a composite that is similar to smart concrete?

 

Design Investigations

Discuss with your group how you might make a composite with electrical properties from the materials available. Use these prompts to help you.

         Concrete is a composite whose properties include….

         We can model concrete using _____ because….

         We can give our composite electrical properties by….

         We will test if our composite’s resistivity changes by….

         To be safe, we need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record and organize your observations and data in tables such as the one below.

 

Ingredients in Our Composite

Initial Resistivity (ohms)

Final Resistivity (ohms)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your results and then make one or more claims based on the evidence you observed.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 9)


Compare Findings

Review the video and discuss your results with classmates who made the same or similar composites or with classmates who made different composites. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert to find out more about resistivity and smart concrete. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) information I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 10)

 

 


 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data (e.g., number of trials, or control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflection was limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 11)

 

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

For NBC Learn in Learning Management Systems please log in to your institution's Learning Management System web site and click "Browse NBC Learn".
For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Close NBC Learn

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

Videos on this page are not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on the footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games videos are only available to visitors inside the United States due to licensing restrictions on the Olympics footage used in the videos.

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on on Olympic footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

For NBC Learn in Blackboard™ please log in to your institution's Blackboard™ web site and click "Browse NBC Learn"

Close NBC Learn

If you have received a new user registration code from your institution, click your product below and use the "Register now" link to sign up for a personal account.

For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.