Materials & their uses

All | Chemistry | Design & Technology | Science | 11-16

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the properties of different materials.
  2. Know how the properties of each material relate to its uses on the America’s Cup Challenge.
  3. Explain that materials are chosen in the design process for their specific properties.

Lesson Description

This Design & Technology topic covers terminology used to describe the properties of objects or materials, different materials used in the construction of the boats, and why these different materials are used. It also looks at the different materials used in the construction of the crew’s clothing and why these different materials are chosen. Introduce the topic with the short starter film, discussing how choices of materials used in clothing and boats relates to those that will give the best performance. The differentiated worksheets reinforce students learning.The resources can be used either in sequence or flexibly as an introduction to a topic, or for a quick learning activity.

This film gives a brief insight into the modern materials used in INEOS TEAM UK's America's Cup boat - what properties do they have and why have they been chosen?



For immediate access to all of our free Key stage 3 and 4 STEM teaching resources.

2.Worksheet 1 Explore the properties of different materials. An introduction suggested for 11-14 year olds.
3.Worksheet 1 Answers Answers to Worksheet 1.
4.Worksheet 2 Explore the properties of different materials. An introduction suggested for 14-16 year olds.
5.Worksheet 2 Answers Answers to Worksheet 2.
6.Practical Investigation Presentation Editable presentation for delivering a practical investigation supporting the Mechanism topic.
7.Practical Investigation Teacher Guide Editable presentation for delivering a practical investigation supporting the Mechanism topic.
8.Practical Worksheet 1 Explore materials used on INEOS TEAM UK’s America’s Cup boat and by its sailors.
9.Practical Worksheet 2 Explain why different materials are used in different ways on INEOS TEAM UK’s America’s Cup boat.
10.Practical Worksheet 3 Apply the iterative design process to the choice of materials on INEOS TEAM UK’s America’s Cup boat.


Understand and use the properties of materials and the performance of structural elements to achieve functioning solutions.

GCSE D&T Resistant materials
Edexcel – Unit 2 Topic 1 Materials and components.
Topic 1.3 Polymers (acrylic, polyethene, PVC, high impact polystyrene, ABS, polyester resin, urea formaldehyde), properties to include structural, functional and mechanical properties, incl. plasticity and durability.
Topic 1.4 Composites (carbon fibre and glass reinforced plastics).
Topic 1.5 Modern and smart materials shape memory alloys, photochromic paint, reactive glass, carbon nanotubes as additives.

Select appropriate materials’ appears in both Units A561 and A563.
A565 sustainability lists the following : thermoplastics – ABS, acrylic, LDPE and HDPE, polystyrene, polypropylene, nylon, PVD, uPVC, thermosetting – urea formaldehyde, epoxy resins), and composites including GRP, carbon fibre and Kevlar.

GCSE D&T Textile technology
Functional properties, pros/cons of various natural fibres and also viscose, acetate, Tencel®, polyester, acrylic, nylon, elastane, microfibers, Kevlar, polartec fleece, nanomaterials. Finishes – incl. water repellent, hygienic, flame resistant.


Similar to Edexcel but shorter list of materials, requirement for factors affecting fitness for purpose more detailed (wearability, warmth, comfort, absorbency, durability, after care, safety, flammability, stain resistance, asesthetic qualities).


Similar to above, also mentions abrasion resistance, strength, elasticity, thermal conductivity (aka warmth!), washability, resistance to chemicals, acid and alkaline, bleach, moth and mildew resistance, thermoplasticity.

KS3 Design & Technology

Develop the skills to select and work with a range of materials to make products in a variety of contexts.
Learn about the properties and characteristics of materials and apply this knowledge and understanding when designing and making products.
Combine and process materials in order to create enhanced properties and desired aesthetic characteristics.
Understand that loads can cause material failures in structures by bending, twisting and stretching.
GCSE D&T, Resistant Materials.


Suggest and consider a range of possible materials and make reasoned decisions based on a variety of criteria.

Third level Science

Investigate floating and sinking of objects in water. Apply understanding of buoyancy to solve a practical challenge.
Fourth level Science.
Through experimentation, explain floating and sinking in terms of the relative densities of different materials.
Fourth level Technologies.
Explore the properties and functionality of materials to establish their suitability for a task at home or in the world of work.

KS3 Science & Technology
Select and use materials fit for purpose; safe use of a range of tools and processes appropriate to materials, demonstrating accuracy and quality of outcome.

GCSE Technology & Design
Students should be able to:
Demonstrate an effective working knowledge of materials in relation to their categories and the manufacture of technological products.


All, Chemistry, Design & Technology, Science

Key Stage


Resource For

Students, Teachers


Film, Practical Investigation, Teachers' notes, Worksheets


Materials and their uses
Please login or register to discuss these resources.