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Bend That Bar

Source Institutions

    Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Bend That Bar

Learners play the role of materials engineers as they test the flexibility of different materials. They determine the strength-to-weight ratio of bars of these materials (e.g., steel, aluminum, wood, etc.) and discuss the advantages to using each in different scenarios. This activity can serve as a demonstration for younger students.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Bend that Bar Worksheets (one for each student)
  • A spring scale (optional), or groups take turns if fewer are available
  • 1 bar 15"-18" (38-46 cm) in length and 1/8"-1/4" (3-6 mm) in diameter of each of the following: steel, aluminum, wood, plastic (if available), brass (if available), copper (if available)
  • 1 Sharpie┬« or marker/pens to write on the bars
  • Yard/meter stick
  • Calculator (optional)
  • Bathroom or top-loading scale to weigh individual bars


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
    • Technology
      • Manufacturing
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • 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


  • Rutkowski, Tom; Conner, Alex; Hill, Geoffrey; Schaefer Zarske, Malinda; Yowell, Janet

Source Collection:

  • TeachEngineering


  • All Rights Reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, ©2004

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0226322
  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
  • U.S. Department of Education


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