This quick engineering activity is meant to familiarize students with wire as a building material and help then build fabrication skills. Wire is an excellent material for engineering solutions. For this activity, all you will need is some aluminum wire and a tool for students to cut it to length. Calculating the appropriate length and cutting the wire are part of the activity, so it is better not to supply students with the wire cut to length.
Many types of wire are suitable for this activity, but aluminum is ideal. It is readily available at hardware stores, and it is inexpensive enough to consume. Additionally, it can be straightened and saved for future projects. Wire thickness is measured by gauge; the greater the number the finer the wire. 16-gauge wire is probably the thickest wire students can bend easily with their hands, and 24-guage is almost too thin. If you can buy the wire yourself, you can see and judge for your students. If you need to buy wire without handling it first, 18 or 20-gauage would be a good size to try.
The challenges in this activity are first to look at a wire figure and calculate how much wire is needed. Secondly, bending wire at right angles, with or without pliers can be a challenge. Students should realize that they can use the edge of a table, hardcover book, or block of wood to help bend their angles. The second figure requires making wire squares perpendicular to each other. If you have student who are particularly adept, you could have them make a more challenging shape for others to try. This activity can be extended for older students by having them work in pairs, each making a shape and having their partner try to recreate it.
In each of the accompanying photos, the model that students were copying is the one on top of the direction sheet.