Chemical Reactions in Construction Activity

Construction Context
weldingThis activity fits equally well in the Thermodynamics and the Mechanics & Materials units. Chemical reactions are important in construction in several places, including concrete, welding, paints, adhesives, solvents, corrosion (rust), batteries, and combustion. Helping students understand that chemistry is related to all these diverse topics will support their understanding selected chemistry concepts and better understand principles of construction.

For chemistry teachers doing the iodine clock reaction:
* Beakers or test tubes
* The following chemicals:
– 1.0 liters of 0.1M potassium
– 1.0 liters of 1% starch solution
– 0.5 liters of 0.25M sodium bisulfate
* Optional materials:
Infrared Thermometer
Temperature Sensor

Activity Description
The document Teaching Chemical Reaction in Construction ( provides multiple examples of how chemical reactions applied in context of construction technologies. Each example can be the basis for a classroom activity or demonstration. The greatest benefit of these examples will come when there is a partnership between chemistry and construction professionals. This can happen when there is both a chemistry and construction teacher in the building. With collaboration between chemistry and construction teachers these activities and demonstrations can be set up as small investigations. Using student experience with rust, drying time of paint, and watching construction sites, teachers guide students into expressing interesting questions. The examples can be used to prompt students to use their newly developing chemistry knowledge to explain the behavior of these materials.

Science Concepts:
– Conduction
– Oxidation & Inert Gases
– Proportions and Ratios
– Rates of reaction

Next Generation Science Education Standards
Scientific and Engineering Practices:
– Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
– Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
– Engaging in argument from evidence

Crosscutting Concepts:
– Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
– Scale, proportion, and quantity
– Stability and change

Reflection Questions

  1. By going to the National Science Teacher Association web site and searching for the September 2001 article, Concrete Inquiry ( , you will find additional ideas on this topic.
  1. Other useful information can be found at the Portland Cement Association website. ¬†Clicking on “Concrete in the Classroom” will take you to several lesson plans. ¬†However the page connects you to information about concrete presented in several formats. This site is excellent for student research.

(Download the Activity in PDF, Word)