Hands-on Activity: Focus on Fabrics: Putting Materials to Good Use
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each group needs:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Your Engineering Challenge: The Department of Agriculture is trying to prevent the over- or under-seeding of crops. They are looking for engineering designs to ensure proper seed spacing. One option uses fabrics that have seeds embedded in them. Each fabric has different characteristics. To make sure that the best fabric is used for an application, the characteristics of the fabrics must be studied.
Today, you will perform tests on samples of synthetic and natural fabrics, analyze the test results, and use the information you gather to decide which fabric would be appropriate for specific applications.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
The fibers used in textiles for apparel and home furnishings come from two major sources: natural fibers and synthetic fibers. The natural fibers that come from plants, such as cotton and linen, are generally comfortable and absorbent. Animal fibers, such as wool, silk and mohair, feel soft and luxurious. Spinning the clean original material produces natural fibers.
Synthetic fibers are created through a process that results in a usable fiber. Rayon is made up of regenerated cellulose materials (such as wood pulp and cotton waste). Even though the cellulose material is natural, it is processed with chemicals to create a thick synthetic liquid that can then be spun into a fiber. Other types of synthetic fibers are made from chemicals and are not naturally occurring. Examples include acrylic, nylon, polyester and spandex. These materials are generally easy to care for and resistant to oils and chemicals. Cellulose-based fibers, including acetate and rayon, usually require dry-cleaning.
While we have evidence that some natural fibers were used as long ago as 3,000 to 5,000 BC, synthetic fibers are relatively new inventions. Rayon, the first synthetic fiber, was commercially produced in 1910. Polyester, which is now the most commonly used synthetic fiber in the U.S., was first produced in 1953. New synthetic materials continue to be developed to meet the commercial, industrial and environmental needs of society.
With the Students
Part 1: Testing Synthetic and Natural Fibers
Part 2: Choosing a Fabric for an Application
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Pre-Activity Assessment: Observe participation in brainstorming of fabrics.
Activity Embedded Assessment: Observe student participation within groups.
Post-Activity Assessment: Have students write-up descriptions of the fabrics they chose for seeding and explain why they chose them.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Have students research the uses and characteristics of some other synthetic fabrics, including polyolefin, acetate and spandex.
Have students research the different chemical compositions of synthetic materials.
React hexa-methylendiamine with adipoyl chloride to form nylon.
Do an interdisciplinary lesson with humanities exploring the history of natural and synthetic fibers.
Copyright© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2001 WEPAN/Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Making the Connection, Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (WEPAN)
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
Funded by Lucent Technologies Foundation.