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published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
supported by the International Business Machines
This is a lesson plan that explores how nanotechnology has impacted the design and engineering of many everyday items, from paint to fabrics. Students learn about the hydrophobic effect (the tendency of a substance to repel water). In this lesson for Grades 6-10, students learn about nanotechnology and its application in creating waterproof surfaces. They will then work in teams to develop a waterproof material and compare their results with nano waterproof materials developed recently by engineers and scientists. The driving question of the lesson: How are products re-engineered at the nano level to develop desired properties?

The lesson includes objectives and learner outcomes, problem sets, student guides, recommended reading, illustrated procedures, worksheets, and background information.

Editor's Note: See Related Materials for a link to a companion lesson on waterproofing roof materials and an article from Scientific American describing how the lotus leaf inspired scientists in developing water repellant surfaces.

This collection is part of, a website maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
Fluid Mechanics
- Surface Tension
General Physics
- Properties of Matter
Modern Physics
- Nanoscience
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
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© 2010 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
applied physics, contact angle, engineering activity, engineering design, engineering lessons, hydrophobic effect, hydrophobicity, nanotechnology, surface engineering, surface properties, water repellant, waterproofing
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 27, 2012 by Gnana Subramaniam
Record Updated:
August 14, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 4, 2010
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AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 6-8: 1B/M1b. Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 6-8: 1C/M7. Accurate record-keeping, openness, and replication are essential for maintaining an investigator's credibility with other scientists and society.
  • 9-12: 1C/H4. Science disciplines differ from one another in what is studied, techniques used, and outcomes sought, but they share a common purpose and philosophy, and all are part of the same scientific enterprise. Although each discipline provides a conceptual structure for organizing and pursuing knowledge, many problems are studied by scientists using information and skills from many disciplines. Disciplines do not have fixed boundaries, and it happens that new scientific disciplines are being formed where existing ones meet and that some subdisciplines spin off to become new disciplines in their own right.

3. The Nature of Technology

3B. Design and Systems
  • 6-8: 3B/M2a. All technologies have effects other than those intended by the design, some of which may have been predictable and some not.
  • 6-8: 3B/M3a. Almost all control systems have inputs, outputs, and feedback.
  • 6-8: 3B/M4a. Systems fail because they have faulty or poorly matched parts, are used in ways that exceed what was intended by the design, or were poorly designed to begin with.

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M1cd. Atoms may link together in well-defined molecules, or may be packed together in crystal patterns. Different arrangements of atoms into groups compose all substances and determine the characteristic properties of substances.
  • 9-12: 4D/H8. The configuration of atoms in a molecule determines the molecule's properties. Shapes are particularly important in how large molecules interact with others.
  • 9-12: 4D/H10. The physical properties of compounds reflect the nature of the interactions among its molecules. These interactions are determined by the structure of the molecule, including the constituent atoms and the distances and angles between them.

12. Habits of Mind

12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M8. Explain a scientific idea to someone else, checking understanding and responding to questions.
  • 9-12: 12D/H7. Use tables, charts, and graphs in making arguments and claims in oral, written, and visual presentations.
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AIP Format
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010), WWW Document, (
TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing, (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010), <>.
APA Format
TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing. (2010, December 4). Retrieved December 15, 2018, from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers:
Chicago Format
International Business Machines. TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, December 4, 2010. (accessed 15 December 2018).
MLA Format
TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010. 4 Dec. 2010. International Business Machines. 15 Dec. 2018 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing}, Publisher = {Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers}, Volume = {2018}, Number = {15 December 2018}, Month = {December 4, 2010}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing
%D December 4, 2010
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D December 4, 2010
%T TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%V 2018
%N 15 December 2018
%8 December 4, 2010
%9 application/pdf

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The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Electronic References.

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TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing:

Is Supplemented By Scientific American: Lotus Leaf Waterproofing

This article describes how scientists have borrowed from one of nature's most water repellant surfaces (the lotus leaf) to develop inexpensive synthetic coatings.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!

This closely related lesson, also from TryEngineering, explores the hydrophobic effect in roofing materials. Both are appropriate for the secondary grades.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is Supplemented By Scholarly Article: Sculptured Biological Surfaces

This article by Kerstin Koch, Rhine-Waal University of Applied Science, describes how surface sculptures play a key role in water repellancy. Provides an excellent explanation of how the lotus leaf surface structure acts to reduce adhesion of liquids (includes SEM image of the cellular structure).

relation by Caroline Hall

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