Art Crafting, Halloween, Holiday, Inexpensive and Versatile, STEM Resources

Pipe Cleaner Spiders – STEM Manufacturing

As an engineering mother, I am trying my best to incorporate a practical understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) so that my children will eventually begin to understand the importance of what they learn in school.  I love learning about how things are made!  In this project, I incorporated some crafting (art – the ‘A’ in STEAM) into our project.  For this project, I focused on teaching my children about material selection and manufacturing of pipe cleaners.

First, here are the step by step instructions for making these super easy and cute spider rings!

Step 1: Grab 3 pipe cleaners.  (I used 2 different colors to help show contrast, but you can use 3 of the same color.)
Step 2: Fold two of the same colored pipe cleaners in half.
Step 3: Cut the pipe cleaners in the middle.
Step 4: Confirm that you have 4 pipe cleaners of the same color.
Step 5: Bunch the pipe cleaners together and find the center.
Step 6: Wrap the third pipe cleaner around the other four in the center.
Step 7: Measure your finger.
Step 8: Lift one of the wrapped pieces of pipe cleaners to make a hole and push the end of the pipe cleaner through the hole and wrap it.
Step 9: Use your thumb or finger to bend the legs.
Step 10: Spread out the legs to look like a spider.
Step 11: Wear it on your finger!

I found this craft on a YouTube channel by Laura Berg Life in case you would prefer a video over my images. They also had some additional fun ideas to make the spider look more impressive!

STEM Teaching – Material Selection:

Pipe cleaners are super flexible and easy to manipulate.  Their flexibility is due to the type of metal used.  The metal can not be too hard or too soft to manipulate.  Too hard and it will not be flexible enough and too soft, it would break apart easily.

Two thin metal wires are wrapped together around either yarn or another material that removes moisture of residue (like cotton).  The type of material used is dependent on the application. Crafting pipe cleaners, like the one we used, are typically made of yarn (polyester or nylon).  Other pipe cleaners that are used for cleaning residue or removing moisture from an engineering application or a medical apparatus typically use cotton fabric.  This is because cotton absorbs moisture and residue better than the other materials mentioned.

The reason that cotton absorbs water better than nylon is common knowledge in the textile industry.  Textiles are cloths or woven fabrics.  The textile industry designs, produces and distributes yarns and cloths into end use products like carpet, clothes, etc.  The reason cotton is more absorbent than Nylon comes down to molecular structure.  Check out this website on How Stuff Works to learn more.

STEM Teaching – Manufacturing of a Pipe Cleaner:

A pipe cleaner is two thin wires wrapped around a fabric. Machines currently make these in manufacturing and the process is pretty quick and impressive.  Check out this YouTube video!  My daughter loved watching it!

Have a wonderful, safe and fun Halloween!


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