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published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
supported by the International Business Machines
This is a lesson plan on surface engineering, developed to help teachers integrate engineering practices in the secondary classroom. Students learn about nanotechnology and its application in developing hydrophobic surfaces. (Hydrophobicity is a physical property, and is defined as the tendency of a molecule to repel water.) Students work in teams to to design a roof from simple materials that will keep the contents of a box dry during a water test. The driving question of the lesson: How do civil engineers apply principles of nanotechnology to develop waterproof roofs?

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

Hydrophobic molecules tend to be non-polar, whereas H2O is a polar molecule. Examples of hydophobic molecules include oils and fats. But as the size of objects is reduced to the nanoscale, the effects of surface properties become even more pronounced. To extend this lesson, See Related Materials for an article by the Nanoterra Group that provides information on newer applications of nanotechnology in surface design.

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
- Chemistry
- Engineering
- High School
- Middle 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
Hydrophobic Effect, applied physics, contact angle, engineering activity, engineering lessons, surface engineering, surface properties
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 27, 2012 by Gnana Subramaniam
Record Updated:
July 23, 2015 by Bruce Mason
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 4, 2010
Other Collections:

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: Waterproof that Roof!, (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010), <>.
APA Format
TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!. (2010, December 4). Retrieved November 22, 2018, from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers:
Chicago Format
International Business Machines. TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, December 4, 2010. (accessed 22 November 2018).
MLA Format
TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010. 4 Dec. 2010. International Business Machines. 22 Nov. 2018 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!}, Publisher = {Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers}, Volume = {2018}, Number = {22 November 2018}, Month = {December 4, 2010}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!
%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: Waterproof that Roof!
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%V 2018
%N 22 November 2018
%8 December 4, 2010
%9 application/pdf

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TryEngineering: Waterproof that Roof!:

Is Supplemented By Nanoterra: Surface Engineering Article

An article describing current applications of nano-engineering in development of surfaces with enhanced absorption or water-repellant properties.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as TryEngineering: Nano Waterproofing

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

relation by Caroline Hall

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