Chemical Reactions and Engineering Design

American Chemical Society - Middle School Chemistry
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Animation/Movie , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



     Students test various endothermic and exothermic changes and reactions, then use their findings to design a reptile egg carrier.  The egg carrier must reach a specific temperature range and be designed to protect a reptile egg during transport.   While students do experiment directly with testing amounts of the chemicals and methods of combining them, they only draw the egg carrier and do not build or test the carrier itself.  

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students are introduced to this idea through directed experiences about how calcium chloride dissolved alone will become hot, while baking soda dissolved alone will become cold and create a gas, so combining them may be a way to make something warm and gaseous. Students later demonstrate the performance expectation on their own, as they perform tests involving varying amounts of the two chemicals being dissolved, in order to determine which amounts of each chemical will result in a product that falls within a specified temperature range.

MS-PS1-6 Undertake a design project to construct, test, and modify a device that either releases or absorbs thermal energy by chemical processes.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the design, controlling the transfer of energy to the environment, and modification of a device using factors such as type and concentration of a substance. Examples of designs could involve chemical reactions such as dissolving ammonium chloride or calcium chloride.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to the criteria of amount, time, and temperature of substance in testing the device.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The purpose of the lesson is for students to experiment with different amounts of calcium chloride, baking soda and water to create a reaction that reaches a certain temperature range. The lesson leads the students step-by-step through the process, with little opportunity for students to design their own experiments. The framing story of designing a reptile egg carrier does not really “go anywhere”, as it has students draw one idea of how the reptile egg carrier might look, and that’s the end of the lesson. It is therefore recommended that teachers have students determine and test their own amounts of reactants in the calcium chloride-baking soda-water portion of the lesson (replacing page 700 of student handout), and that students be given the opportunity to develop their own methods for separating then combining the materials within a closed zip-top bag (replacing page 701-702 of the student handout). Teachers can also create opportunities for students to give and receive feedback on the drawings, then modify their designs, perhaps through a gallery walk/revision process. To fully address this Performance Expectation, students will need to extend the lesson by building their devices, testing them, and making changes based on their test results.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The lesson overtly introduces and uses the vocabulary of criteria and constraints. Depending on prior student experience with engineering, a teacher may need to offer more or less support in step 3 of the lesson plan, where criteria and constraints for the egg carrier are discussed. Students then move on to design an egg carrier that will fulfil the criteria without violating the constraints. To ensure use of the entire design cycle, students will need to be offered opportunities to give and receive feedback on their designs, and revise them, perhaps through a gallery walk/revision process.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The purpose of the lesson is to use this DCI in order to create a carrier that will keep a reptile egg warm and safe. The energy-releasing property of dissolving calcium chloride and the energy-storing property of dissolving baking soda are both in play, as is the overall chemical reaction between calcium chloride, baking soda and water. The lesson is a culminating one, referring back to students’ familiarity with both endothermic and exothermic reactions as explored in an earlier lesson (chapter 6 lesson 7) of the online curriculum.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students use thermometers, and the vocabulary of “endothermic” and “exothermic” to qualitatively and quantitatively describe what’s going on with thermal energy throughout the activity. The teacher may need to point out that what the students are doing with the thermometers is, in fact, tracking the transfer of energy.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson incorporates the phenomenon of various types of handwarmers as a launch pad for students’ own investigations involving dissolving chemicals both separately and together. Students will use core ideas about endothermic and exothermic reactions as they track energy transfer (a cross-cutting concept) in order to design a reptile egg carrier that meets given criteria and constraints (a Practice). The lesson can be strengthened by increasing student opportunity for open-ended investigations and for giving/receiving feedback and redesigning tests and/or the egg carrier design itself. See the Tips above.

  • Instructional Supports: A framing story of rescuing eggs is used to “hook” student interest. The phenomenon of handwarmers leads to students’ experiences with dissolving chemicals. The engineering concept is linked to the core idea of endothermic and exothermic reactions. Students’ prior knowledge of endothermic and exothermic reactions, and of the behavior of calcium chloride and of baking soda, come into play. The resource lacks opportunity for students to explain and justify their thinking. The questions on the student worksheet should therefore be altered to allow students to do more than “answer the questions with the right answer”.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: In order to successfully complete the chemical experiments and design an egg carrier, students must use three-dimensional learning. The student handout questions may be used as formative assessment of ideas about engineering design and about endothermic and exothermic reactions, but not about heat energy transfer. A summative assessment for the lesson is not included. A summative assessment (“test bank”) for the entire chapter of the curriculum is linked, but is not useful for assessing three-dimensional learning.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The lesson does not use technological interactivity.