Resources

Creating captivating cornflour

Introduction

Discover the properties of this curious material in a fun, but often messy activity. Suitable for classes or Clubs

Encourage students to design and make an engineered product from cornflour, for example could they make a suit of armour from cornflour; what would be the benefits and problems of this idea?

This activity can be used to engage all ages of students in STEM and can be used in discussions of forces and material choices. It includes a case study of a young scientist.

This is a short activity but extras are suggested. From experience, getting students (of any age) to stop might be a problem!

Activities

What you'll need

You can do this activity with small or large groups, or even adapt it to use on a stand at a STEM fair. If your groups are large, split them into smaller teams depending on the apparatus available.

It is always a good idea to put old newspaper on the tables before starting as this can get messy.

  • A plastic bowl or beaker
  • A spoon or stirring rod
  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • A balance
  • A measuring cylinder or jug
  • Aprons if possible!

What to do...

Measure out 15g of cornflour
Measure out 12 cubic centimetres of water
Add the water to the cornflour and stir

The resource contains lots of questions to ask of students when they are doing this activity which encourages them to investigate what is happening to the mixture and what they think the material could be used for as well as other sections containing explanations and handy hints for those delivering the activity.

Engineering is ...

... being creative with materials and applying their properties to new and exciting products is a great example of engineering.

Materials engineers work in all areas of industry. They could be developing new materials for use in protection (like the shear thickening fluids) or analysing what happens when a material fails (like why mobile phone screens crack).

There are several different degree courses available covering materials and chemical engineering, requiring A-Levels, Advanced Diplomas or Scottish Highers for entry (www.ucas.com).

Related fields: Chemical engineering, materials science.

Process technology apprenticeships (www. apprenticeships.org.uk) can lead to a wide range of occupations in the chemical, pharmaceutical, petrochemical manufacturing and refining industries. You could be responsible for machine maintenance or analytical support, leading you into work on an oil rig or in a laboratory.

In Scotland visit www.apprenticeshipsin scotland.com and in Wales visit information about Apprenticeships on the Careers Wales website.

Supported by:

  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • BAE Systems