Bringing STEM activities into your home is easier than you think. This popsicle stick catapult is not only easy to build for all school-aged children, but it’s also a fun toy after you make it. Making these will train fine motor skills, examine Newton’s second and third laws of motion, and can be fun art projects.

Who is Newton and What Is a Law of Motion?

Sir Isaac Newton was a British mathematician, physicist, and author in the late 1600s. He defined three foundational principles of physical science and mechanics called the “laws of motion.”

Newton’s second law is actually a mathematical equation, but it states that the acceleration of an object is proportional to an acting force and inversely proportional to its mass (F=ma). In terms of our catapult, how fast our pom pom flies is determined by its mass and the force we put on it (i.e. pushing down on the spoon).

His third law is a bit easier to grasp: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So as much as we push down on the spoon of our catapult, it will spring back with that much force.

Let’s start making our catapults so we can see what Newton saw in 1687!

CAUTION: Do not launch hard objects from these catapults! Do not aim at breakable objects either!

Instructions

Now that you’ve gathered your materials, here are 5 steps to build your catapult:

0. Before you start making the catapult, you can paint or draw on each stick to give your catapult a unique look. In ancient times, catapults sometimes included the colors or coat of arms of the attacking army so you can create your own kingdom or copy the imagery of Rome or your favorite Greek city-state.

1. Make a stack of 7 popsicle sticks and use rubber bands to tie them together on both ends, about ½-inch from each end. Double tie the bands to keep the sticks tight.

2. Make a stack of 2 popsicle sticks and use a rubber band to tie them together on one end only, about ¼-inch from the end.

3. Pull the 2 popsicle sticks apart and wedge the stack of 7 popsicle sticks between the bottom stick and the second stick.

4. Place the plastic spoon on top of the free popsicle stick. Using 2 rubber bands, secure the plastic soon to the upper popsicle stick, one right below the bowl, one near the bottom of the handle. You can adjust the bands to secure the spoon best.

5. Now is another time you can decorate the catapult. Add a button to the bottom of the handle where you’ll hold it down, some extra pom poms to the ends of the platform or the flag of your kingdom!

Launching

Launching objects from your catapult is easy, but please be careful to only use soft objects, to not aim at other people, and do not use around easily breakable objects.

1. Place the pom pom onto the bowl of the spoon.

2. Hold the catapult with one hand and use the other hand to push down the spoon. You can try to aim your launch at an empty toilet paper roll on a table.

3.Release the spoon and watch the pom pom fly!

Extra fun:
  • With a friend, create a structure out of paper or plastic cups, toilet or paper towel rolls. Try to hit the structure and break it down.
  • Try different sizes of pom poms or marshmallows to see which ones fly best. Record your results like a real scientist!

If you’d like your own popsicle stick catapult project pack and live in the southern Chicago suburbs, let us know so we can set up a dropoff location!

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