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Module 7: Concrete Activity, Review and Exam 1

To get started, download the complete, detailed faculty outline of Module 7 (PDF | Word). Additional links and downloadable resources for teaching the class are listed below.

This week, we'll put to work some of the concepts we've been studying to build and break concrete blocks, and review for the mid-term exam.


We’ve been looking at the past uses of materials and imagining their future societal transformations, but now it’s time to put our ideas to work. This week, students will get their hands dirty learning to make concrete blocks with whatever additives their imagination suggests, and then use their smartphones to measure the tensile strength of these blocks as they destroy them. In the process, students will be asked to reflect upon how the actual making of materials shapes how they come to understand a material’s properties. In this way, students will see directly how our knowledge about materials always comes at the intersection of the material itself and our interests and abilities in handling it.  

Day 1: Making and Breaking Concrete Activity

Assignment: Day 1–Concrete Research Experiment (Word)
Over the next three days, the class will conduct an experiment to determine the tensile strength of your concrete blocks.
Optional for those interested in following an anthropological perspective on materials this week:
Read The Materials of Life (PDF) (from Tim Ingold (2013) In the Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. Chapter 2: The Materials of Life. London: Routledge)

Preparations prior to class: Build simple molds for making concrete bars. 

Classroom Activity: Groups make concrete bars.  Make the bars on a Monday and allow them to cure until Friday.  

 Day 2: Mid-Course Review, Exam 1

Use the list of key terms (Word) to guide your review of your notes and course materials in preparation for your exam.

Mid-Course Exam 1

Exam 1 questions and answer key are available upon request. Contact Kevin Jones, University of Florida, at

Day 3: Breaking Concrete Activity

Read: Concrete Breaking Activity (Word)

Preparations before class: Building the Impact Testing Machine

Classroom Activity: Impact Testing of Concrete Blocks

Students are required to turn in a short report (1 page) by the end of Day 3 which discusses what they used to make each bar, their observations from the breaking process, the height of the sledge hammer before and after it strikes the bar and the calculated energy absorbed as well as any conclusions on their reinforced sample.