Strength of Materials Project Ideas for High School

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Engineers are often tasked with finding ways to enhance the strength and durability of their designs. This resource provides project ideas for high school students about the strength of materials.

Strength of Materials

As students consider building options to solve various problems, they will need to be able to measure the strength of their materials. The following projects challenge high school students to enhance their learning about material strength.

Tensile Strength of Candy

Grade level: 9-12

Time: 2-3 days

Guiding Question

  • Which candy has the greatest tensile strength?


  • computer/internet
  • clamps
  • retort stand
  • weights
  • meter stick
  • 3 or more types of taffy, gummy, caramel, or licorice candy.


  • After researching tensile strength and the formulas for measuring stress and strain, students will record their hypothesis about which type of candy has the greatest tensile strength.
  • The first step will be for students to measure each type of candy and record their data.
  • The first candy will be suspended from the retort stand. A clamp will be attached to the bottom of the candy from which weights will be suspended.
  • Students will begin by adding a one-pound weight. The candy will be measured and data recorded. Additional weights will be added in one-pound increments with the process of measuring and recording data being repeated until the candy has held four pounds.
  • The process will be repeated with the other types of candy. Each candy will be tested at least three times so accurate results may be attained.
  • Students will display data graphically and write a concluding statement about their findings.

Compressive Stress Tests

Grade level: 9-12

Time: 2-3 days

Guiding Question

  • How does the width affect the compression strength of clay?


  • computer/internet
  • meter stick
  • modeling clay
  • weights

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