Feb. 28, 2014

Make a Model of a Home Made From Shipping Containers

by Ariel Zych

Click to enlarge images
Target Grades: Grades 6-8, extensions for grades 9-10
Content Areas: Mathematics, Engineering and Technology
Activity Type: Design challenge
Shipping containers, also called freight containers or intermodal containers, are large, reusable steel boxes typically used to transport materials and products all around the world. They are durable, watertight, and stackable, making them easy to transfer between boats, trains, or trucks. Although these huge boxes have been used in the shipping industry for more than 60 years, only recently have homebuilders begun converting them into finished homes.
Watch the video below to learn about a couple who built a home out of shipping containers in Brooklyn, New York. Next, design and build a 3D scale model of a shipping container home using printed cutouts. Use these models to practice basic calculations of ratio, volume, and surface area to estimate the amount of flooring and paint needed, and what size windows and doors to include. Send a picture of your original design to educate[at] for a chance to be included in the activity slideshow.
"Living Inside the Box," by Flora Lichtman
Materials Needed:
  • 2-3 copies of shipping container cutout printed on standard copy paper
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape or glue sticks
  • Optional: Printed “Student Calculations Worksheet”
  • Optional: Calculators, markers, or toothpicks for embellishing finished models
Safety Considerations: Practice common-sense safety with scissors, glue, and tape dispensers.
Related Science Friday Links: 
About Ariel Zych

Ariel is Science Friday's education manager. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside. You can follow her @arieloquent

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.