Forces on the Human Molecule

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this physical activity, two lines of learners link hands and arms to model a beam subject to various loading schemes. They discover how inter-atomic forces react to the five fundamental load types that can act on structures: tension, compression, shear, bending, and torsion. This activity can be used as an introduction to these forces or as review. Note: The description refers to learners as "molecules of steel" and their arms being the bonds between them. Since steel is an alloy of multiple elements, each learner would represent an atom and their arms are the inter-atomic forces which join them.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • group of learners


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
    • Technology
      • Manufacturing
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
    • Motion and Forces
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure

Informal Categories

  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • K-12 Outreach Office, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2013

Funding Source:

  • Pratt & Whitney