Recreating ASTM Standard Tests @ Home


This is a simple assignment that your students can do at home, either as part of a remote course or an in-person course. Students make short (<5 minute) videos demonstrating an ASTM standard mechanical test (or other common mechanical test) using basic household materials.

Learning Objectives

  • Read and interpret ASTM standard specifications for mechanical tests.
  • Describe the importance of specimen geometry and preparation.
  • Identify and demonstrate criteria for a valid test.

Guidance for Students

Keep the instructions short and targeted. For example:

In this activity, you will produce a short (less than 5 minute) video demonstrating a mechanical testing procedure using household materials. Your goal is to teach your peers about the testing method, not necessarily to produce valid test results! You may choose to make quantitative measurements if you like, but it is not required.

Provide students with a relatively short, curated list of ASTM standards. It’s important to choose common tests so that students can find videos featuring the real test equipment on YouTube. I included the corresponding standards for metals and plastics in some instances so that students could compare similar documents. Examples are given below:

  • ASTM E399/D5045: Linear-elastic plane-strain fracture toughness of metals and plastics
  • ASTM D5528: Double-cantilever beam test for interlaminar fracture
  • ASTM D1922: Elmendorf tearing test
  • ASTM E23/D6110: Charpy impact test
  • ASTM E9: Compression test
  • ASTM D3967: “Brazilian” indirect tension test for brittle materials

Provide students with a concrete list of required topics they must address in their video, for example:

  • Specimen: What is the standard specimen geometry? Why is it shaped that way?
  • Measurements: What data is collected during the test, and how?
  • Computed properties: What mechanical properties are computed from the measurements?
  • Test validity: What are some possible things that could go wrong to make the test results invalid?

Finally, consider suggesting a “theme” for specimens. In my class, many students chose to perform experiments on food (notched beam specimens made of a carrots, compression discs made of cucumber, one student even baked cookies in the shape of Charpy specimens!). This really helps make the activity fun and whimsical.

Submitting and sharing videos

I used FlipGrid for students to upload and share their videos. Setting up a FlipGrid page for your course takes less than 5 minutes. Students can react to, comment on, and even submit video responses to other submissions. The FlipGrid app (available with any common smartphone) includes very basic video editing. Students can also record and upload videos using their computer webcam.

Examples from MAE 3270 (Cornell University)

The frame below is actually a playlist. Click the icon in the top-right corner to see a list of all the videos.

Import this assignment into your own Canvas course

Assignment shared on Canvas Commons. If you use Canvas, you can import it into your own course.

Cite this work as:

Matthew Ford (2020), "Recreating ASTM Standard Tests @ Home,"

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