« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!

Need Help?

The Evolution of Materials Science in Everyday Products Mark as Favorite (66 Favorites)

PROJECT in Physical Properties, History, Covalent Bonding, Polymers, Culminating Project, VSEPR Theory, Chemical Properties. Last updated January 27, 2021.


In this project, students will be able to understand the progression of development of an everyday product and display their knowledge through a creative video. They will investigate the history and chemical composition of the product through the present day. The students will then suggest an innovation about how the product can be altered in the future to improve society.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This project will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-ETS1-1: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
  • HS-ETS1-3: 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, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
    • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions


By the end of this project, students should be able to

  • Connect the chemical and physical properties of the product with its chemical structure and composition.
  • Understand the progression of how this product came to be useful in current society.
  • Effectively work in a team to suggest modifications that can be made to the product for better use in the future.

Chemistry Topics

This project supports students’ understanding of

  • Material Science
  • Chemical composition
  • Chemical structure
  • Chemical properties
  • Physical properties
  • History
  • Bonding
  • Polymers
  • Real-world chemistry


Teacher Preparation: 30 minutes to read project, make modifications, and photocopy

Lesson: 10 hours outside of class spread over 3-4 weeks


  • Access to the Internet and the ability to make a video
  • Student project sheet


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this project.

Teacher Notes

  • Teacher should have previously taught the necessary chemistry concepts as described in the above topics list.
  • If this project is to be completed outside of class, teachers should give students 3-4 weeks to work on it. It is up the discretion of the teacher as to whether or not class time is available to work on the project.
  • Teacher should provide a product list to students (sample list included below) but will need to decide whether or not students are limited to the supplied product list or are permitted to brainstorm another product for teacher approval.
    • Paint: used in art
    • Paint: interior
    • Paint: exterior
    • Personal care: deodorant
    • Personal care: toothpaste
    • Cleansers: soap, body wash, etc.
    • Cleansers: household (ex: 409, bleach, Windex)
    • Hair product: shampoo
    • Hair product: dye
    • Fuel: automobile
    • Fuel: airplane
    • Fuel: household lighting
    • Cosmetics: nail polish
    • Cosmetics: make-up
    • Construction materials: road
    • Construction materials: building
    • Fragrances: perfume and cologne
    • Fragrances: air freshener
    • Electronics: battery
    • Electronics: computer chip
    • Inks: tattoo
    • Inks: writing
  • Possible project extensions
    • Past:
      • Include Lewis/VSEPR structure and polarity, if known, for each iteration
      • Discuss the interactions between substances in the product and how they give rise its properties
    • Present:
      • Include polarity of selected essential compound in product
    • Peer commentary:
      • Each student can view two videos and write a journal entry comparing the two: evaluating pros, cons, insights, etc.
  • Possible project modifications
    • Past:
      • Could do two iterations of product instead of three
    • Students could do an oral report and/or slide presentation instead of a video.
  • Teacher may decide to have each student group check-in with them periodically throughout the project to make sure that each group is on task.
  • Students are encouraged to work in small groups to simulate real-world collaboration in industry; however, teachers must do what is best for their students. In some cases, students may not agree on a topic or may not be available to meet outside of class with team members, so the project may need to be completed individually.
  • The Department of Health & Human Services website lists ingredients for thousands of household products. It will be most useful for the “present” portion of the project.

For the Student


Materials science involves the study of structure, properties, and performance of materials such as metals, ceramics, and polymers. Everyday products like fuel, paint, and cleansers are made of different substances that interact to generate specific and desirable properties that make them useful to us.

In this project, your 2-4 person group will be making a 5-10 minute creative materials science video by selecting an everyday, commonly-used product and researching how its composition and use has progressed through time. It is important to connect the history of the product with its chemical composition and properties. Then you will need to suggest a possible modification or adaptation for this product regarding how it can be better used in the future. Finished videos will be submitted to your teacher’s Google Drive account. Each portion of the project is discussed in detail below.

Video Project Guidelines

  1. PAST:
    Create a news story, a skit, or an animation that explores three past iterations (previous points in time) in which your product was used. Be sure to include the following information for each iteration:
  • Date
  • Discoverer/inventor
  • Industrial and/or consumer uses
  • The way the product was synthesized
  • Chemical composition—what the product was made out of
  • Chemical and physical properties of the product
  • The reason this product was important to society
  • Discussion of how the product changed (in terms of materials and/or uses) over time and why were these improvements were necessary
  • Inclusion of at least one image (picture, cartoon, video, chemical structure, etc.)
  • *Note: For some products, the above information may not be available for each iteration. See your teacher if you have specific questions.
    Interview a person, place, or thing to discuss the below information about your product.
  • Discuss your product in terms of today’s society. You may choose to include the following information:
    • Industrial and/or consumer uses
    • Projected market/audience
    • Synthesis (creation)
    • Cost
    • Advertising
    • Importance to society
  • Analyze the strengths or advantages of your product as well as the weaknesses or disadvantages. *Note: Pay particular attention to the weaknesses/disadvantages, as they may drive your idea for future modifications.
  • Focus on at least one compound in your product that is an essential component. Look at this compound from a chemistry lens and address the following information below. * Note: If you cannot find a compound to focus on, see your teacher for help.
    • Name of compound (IUPAC, if available)
    • Type of bonding
    • VSEPR or crystal structure
    • Physical properties (at least three)
    • Chemical properties (at least two)
    • Discuss how and why this compound differs from what was historically used in the product. If the compound has remained the same over time, state that instead.
  • Include at least two images. One must be at the macroscopic level; the other must be a drawing or model at the submicroscopic (i.e. molecular) level.
  1. FUTURE:
    Create an advertisement or commercial that promotes your future product innovation.
  • Brainstorm possible modifications that could be made to your product that would solve a problem or improve it, and then select one idea to discuss and present.
  • The questions below will help you get started.
    • Is there a problem regarding how your product is used in today’s society?
    • If so, how could you find an innovative solution?
    • If not, can you reimagine how the product could be used differently?
    • How could future generations benefit from a change in your product?
  • Include at least one image that embodies the modification of your product.


Grading Guidelines for this project are on the following page.

Grading Guidelines

Past (20 points total) Possible Points Points Earned
Iteration #1: Required information is addressed 5
Iteration #2: Required information is addressed 5
Iteration #3: Required information is addressed 5
Required information is accurate 5
Present (10 points total) Possible Points Points Earned
Required information is addressed 5
Required information is accurate 5
Future (10 points total) Possible Points Points Earned
Original idea 3
Clearly explained 3
Evidence of innovative thinking 2
Relevant image included 2
Video Presentation (10 points total) Possible Points Points Earned
Stays within appropriate time limit 2
Creativity is evident 2
Information is clearly presented 4
Presentation held audience’s interest 2
Total Project Points Earned 50