NOVA: Making Stuff

Expand/Collapse NOVA: Making Stuff


What will the future bring, and what will it be made of? In NOVA's popular series, Making Stuff, technology reporter David Pogue takes viewers on a fun-filled tour of the material world we live in, and the one that may lie ahead. Get a behind-the-scenes look at scientific innovations ushering in a new generation of materials that are different than anything we've ever seen.

The media resources below enable educators to get an inside look at the field of materials science and encourage a better understanding of the scientific innovations that are developing materials that will shape our future.

For additional classroom resources, download the Making Stuff Activity Guide, which contains four materials science activities that can be used in afterschool or out-of-school programs, or other settings.

  • The Math Behind Package Delivery

    Learn how UPS uses math to help plan optimal routes for its delivery trucks in this video from NOVA's “Making Stuff Faster.”

    Grades: 6-12
  • Fabric From Hagfish Slime

    This video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Wilder” looks at the possibility of making new materials from hagfish proteins.

    Grades: 6-12
  • A Green Way to Fight Fires

    Learn about a new type of nontoxic fire retardant made from cornstarch in this video from NOVA: "Making Stuff Safer."

    Grades: 6-12
  • Making Boats Fly

    Learn how rigid wing sails and hydrofoils help boats go faster in this video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Faster.”

    Grades: 6-12
  • Preserving Permafrost

    Learn about a device that helps keep permafrost cold in this video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Colder.”

    Grades: 6-12
  • Swarm Robotics

    This video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Wilder” explores how multiple robots can communicate and interact with one another to behave like a swarm. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Powering Torque in the Trunk

    Explore how to make cars accelerate quickly in this video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Faster.”

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Science of Keeping Cool

    Explores how a cooling vest keeps body temperature down in this video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Colder.” 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Wild-Inspired Robotic Arms

    Learn how the design of a new kind of robotic arm was inspired by nature in this video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Wilder.” 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Engineering Soft-Story Safety

    Explore how buildings can be retrofitted to be more earthquake resistant in this video from NOVA: “Making Stuff Safer.” 

    Grades: 6-12
  • What's This Stuff?

    Learn about the physical, chemical, and mechanical properties of ten mystery materials in this interactive activity adapted from NOVA.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Breaking Point: Testing Tensile Strength

    This video excerpt from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Stronger" and accompanying demonstration illustrate the toughness and tensile strength of Kevlar® and other everyday materials.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Strong as Steel: Testing Toughness

    This video from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Stronger" and accompanying activity for grades K–8 help students investigate the strength and toughness of steel and other everyday materials.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Business of Bioplastics

    This video from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Cleaner" and accompanying demonstration introduce students to the production and importance of bioplastics, or plastics made from plant or animal products.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Building a Cleaner Battery

    This video excerpt from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Cleaner" and accompanying activity guide for grades K–8 introduce students to the design and use of batteries and the rapidly developing science of clean energy and clean materials.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Magnetic Microbots

    This video from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Smaller" and accompanying activity for grades K–8 teach students how materials scientists are building extremely small robots that may be able to travel inside the human body.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Nanowires and the Ever-Shrinking Microchip

    This video from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Smaller" and accompanying demonstration introduce students to small, thin wires, called nanowires, that may help make computers and electronics even smaller in the future.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Shape Shifters: Shape-Memory Alloys and Polymers

    This video excerpt from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Smarter" and accompanying demonstration teach students about revolutionary shape-memory materials.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Outsmarting Oobleck

    This video from NOVA’s "Making Stuff: Smarter" and accompanying activity for grades K–8 help students investigate some “smart” materials that respond to forces or changes in their environment in unusual ways.

    Grades: 6-12

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