Popsicle Stick Catapult
This experiment won’t really launch you into space, but it will certainly help show energy, gravity and the Laws of Motion at work. Summer is winding to a close but there’s still time to have fun and get creative. So, gather your supplies and catapult your way into summer learning!
- Popsicle Sticks
- Rubber Bands
- Plastic Spoon
- Pom pom Balls
- Optional paint or markers to decorate the popsicle sticks
- Ruler, pencil and paper
- Make a stack of popsicle sticks by stacking them one on top of each other. Start with five (5) sticks. Optional: paint or color the popsicle sticks before starting.
- Wrap a rubber band around each end of the stack to hold the stack together.
- Take two popsicle sticks and stack them together. Wrap one rubber band around one end of these two sticks to hold them together.
- Pull the two popsicle sticks slightly apart and place the larger stack of sticks in between the two.
- Attach the larger stack to the stick on the top using a rubber band.
- Set the spoon on the top popsicle stick and use a rubber band to lash it down.
- The spoon should be facing cup side (scoop side) outwards.
- Place a pom pom on the spoon.
- Hold the catapult with one hand and use your other hand to pull down on the spoon. Release the spoon to watch the pom pom launch! Where will the pom pom go? How far will it go?
- Record your observations. Measure the distance the pom pom traveled. What might make a difference in how far it travels?
- Try building the catapult with more popsicle sticks. What do you think will happen?
Wow! Catapults are awesome!
They sure are! First recorded in ancient Greece around 399, B.C., catapults were used in battle to defeat walls and attack settlements, but in modern times we can use them for something else! Catapults are very useful in teaching STEM concepts, particularly Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion – An object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force; force is equal to the change in momentum per change in time, and for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. How can you see some of these laws in action with the catapult?
Playing with the catapult also provides an opportunity to observe gravity, kinetic energy, and potential energy. Will the weight of the projectile make a difference in how far it travels or how fast it falls to the ground? Try out other small objects to measure this. Be sure to use items that are soft stay safe – marshmallows, plastic eggs or small paper balls.