Materials and Fasteners

Before using engineering and technology skills to design and build projects, students benefit from experience working with a variety of materials and fasteners.

One of the basic concepts in technology and engineering is developing an understanding of the materials needed to complete a project. For a student who is visually impaired, the sense of touch and even hearing are helpful in identifying materials. This activity includes a trip to a local hardware store!



This activity may take several hours to complete.  It is best suited for for 5th graders and middle school students with  visual impairments.  The amount of supervision and hand-over or hands-under instruction will vary depending on the students’ experiences using tools, and their handskills.

Before beginning this activity assemble and organize all the materials. Be sure that there are safety goggles for every student.  Some students may want to wear gloves, either non allergenic exam gloves or work gloves.  Assess that the gloves fit properly and are not interfering with the students’ sense of touch or hand skills. 

student shopping at hardware store
Student shopping at hardware store


The student will:

  1. Examine, identify and sort a collection of items according to the materials of which they are made.
    • Here are some questions to answer as the items are being examined:
      • What is the texture?
      • Does the material feel smooth to the touch?
      • Does one item feel colder than another?
      •  What kind of sound is produced when the item is gently tapped on the table?
      • Is the material flexible?
  2. After the materials are successfully identified and sorted, examine a variety of fasteners.
    • Answer the following questions:
      • When would you use tape?  What are the differences among the various kinds of tape?
      • What are some materials that could be fastened by staples?
      • What is the difference between a nail and a screw?
      • What advantage would a screw have in holding material together?
      • What would be the best material would best be held together by a nail or a screw?
      • What kinds of materials could be help together by nuts and bolts?
  3. Select a kind of tape to assemble a cardboard box.  Which type of tape worked best?  Is the box strong enough to hold a two pound object?
  4. Use water soluble glue to glue various shapes of paper onto another sheet of paper.  Use the glue to glue popsicle sticks together.
  5. Use a regular stapler to fasten together some papers of various thicknesses.  Which paper required the greatest push on the stapler?
  6. Fasten a piece of fabric onto wood, using the upholstery staple gun.
  7. Nail two wood pieces together, after practicing using the hammer.
  8. Use screws to fasten two pieces of wood together. Try a regular screw and screw driver, then a Phillips head screwdriver.
  9. Fasten together nuts and bolts using the APH Junior construction kit
wood joined with nuts and bolts
Wood joined with nuts and bolts

This part of the activity is appropriate for ages 5 and up.

With the teacher plan a trip to the hardware store to look at a variety of materials and fasteners. As you look at various materials think about a project to design and build.


For students with little experience with materials and fasteners, using the APH Junior Construction Kit is a great introductory activity to try before trying this activity. 

NGSS Standards:

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

By Kate Fraser

Collage of using materials & fasteners

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