Materials and their uses

This topic covers terms 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; different materials used in the construction of the crew's clothing; and why these different materials are used.

The resources in BT STEM Crew can be used either in sequence or flexibly as an introduction to a topic, or for a quick activity.

Introduce the topic of materials with a short starter film, discussing how choices made on materials used in clothing and boats relates to those that will give the best performance. Test students' knowledge with an engaging interactive. Our differentiated worksheets reinforce learning objectives for this topic.


 Take a look at what materials are used to make Land Rover BAR boats - what properties do they have and why have they been chosen?

Interactive quiz

High performance depends on the right design and materials, so the boat has the properties it needs to deliver top speed. Test your students' knowledge of the properties of different materials and their uses.

Launch interactive


Test students' learning with these differentiated worksheets.

Worksheet 1

11-14 lower

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Worksheet 2

11-14 higher

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Worksheet 3


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Practical Investigation

Further your students' knowledge on materials, their properties and their uses with this practical investigation where they will use their knowledge to design, make and justify a boat to carry mass.

Practical Investigation: Presentation


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Practical Investigation: Worksheet 1


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Practical Investigation: Worksheet 2


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Practical Investigation: Worksheet 3


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Practical Investigation: Teacher Guide


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Teacher's notes


To introduce the topic you could have a variety of objects/materials with different characteristics to show students, and ask them to think of three adjectives to describe each one. If necessary, show a list of words such as strong, stiff, hard, flexible, elastic, and absorbent. Check that students understand the meanings of the words, or give an example of each (for example, a biscuit is stiff but not strong, nylon fibre is strong but not stiff).

Suggested activity

Students test different fabrics for water absorbency, or strength test different materials.


Students look at materials used for the boat, equipment and crew gear, and think of other applications these materials could have in other areas, such as in other sports, or in everyday life.

Further ideas/ STEM Club ideas

Students could receive a design brief to design a new piece of equipment or clothing for use in a maritime setting. Students could draw up their designs with full annotation and even make a prototype.


Curriculum link



  • 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

Northern Ireland

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