Submarine materials investigation

Lesson overview

Submarines have to operate in difficult environments. First, they need to operate under pressure. Second, they have to cope with the corrosive nature of seawater. Different parts of the submarine will need different materials. There is no point building a submarine for scientific operation out of solid metal. In this lesson, students will start by reflecting on historical submarine designs and some were not very successful. They will then debate materials choices for building a submarine. A practical investigation looks at how to protect the submarine from rusting.

Lesson outcomes

  • Describe why several different materials are needed to build a submarine (foundation)
  • Carry out a fair investigation into the effects of salt and water on rusting (developing)
  • Explain why different conditions cause different amounts of rusting (competent)
  • Make justified choices for the materials used to build a submarine (expert)
  • Explain oxidation reactions with balanced equations (advanced)

Lesson steps

  1. Brief (10 mins)
    Students are introduced to the concept of submarine design and choice of materials through a look at an early, unsuccessful submarine design. Students set themselves targets based on the learning criteria of the lesson.
  2. Investigation (20 mins)
    Students follow the investigation brief to design and carry out an investigation into rusting and the effects of different environments on an iron nail.
  3. Choice of materials (25 mins)
    Using the materials cards, students make justified choices for the materials to build their submarine. By answering questions, students explain their choice of materials, and attempt to explain the science of rusting.
  4. Self-reflection (5 mins)
    Students decide if they have met their targets set at the beginning of the lesson, and reflect on the lesson’s importance in the context of the Scheme of Work to design a submarine.
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