How great would this be as an inquiry project, something to introduce projectile motion, or just as a really cool activity in the classroom. The Catapult is great for all ages.
A colleague who has used this activity sent me her lab, if you’re interested, please have a look at the activity as it would really help to get your kids engaged and using their hands! Please check her out on Pinterest for more great ideas – http://www.pinterest.com/ammessmer/
Shown below is a great activity for younger grades. If you would like something for older students, please click here to download my Physics Popsicle Stick Catapult Lab Activity. It comes with a full outline and rubric and it’s Free.
Ready, Aim, Fire!!! Popsicle Stick Catapult
Purpose/Problem: You are to design and create a catapult-like device that will launch a marshmallow at least 5 feet forward with accuracy.
Catapult – An ancient weapon for throwing large stones, burning debris, etc.
When you push or pull on an object, you are exerting a force. People exert this force to move objects from one place to another. This exerted force is called work.
There are six simple machines for performing work. The lever is one of these simple machines. A lever consists of a plank that is free at both ends, and a steady object on which the plank can rest. The object that does not move is called the fulcrum. The object that one is trying to move is called the load. The distance from the load to the fulcrum is called the effort arm.
In this activity, you will build a lever that will move the load, which is the marshmallow.
- Base (shoebox)
- Masking Tape
- Popsicle Sticks (20 max)
- Plastic Spoon (1)
- Paper clips (4 max)
- Power source – rubber bands (2)
- Marshmallows (2 for launching)
- Clothes pin (2 max)
Requirements: Marshmallow must go at least 5 feet, and be as accurate as possible (close to the target).
Remember to allow for easy rubber band attachment. Learn from your first design and then re-engineer it for improved performance. Consider a method of cushioning the devise (bring it to a stop) so it does not self destruct.
Step One – Sketch or draw your device. As you sketch, new ideas will come to you…add them on!
Step Two – Decide on a design and build it.
Step Three – Test your device. (first unloaded, then loaded). Check for cracks, loose joints, etc. Figure out a way to strengthen these areas, making a better device
Step Four – Retest and re-evaluate device. Make sure your name is on it!!!
Step Five – Prepare for accuracy and distance competition.