Projectile Physics and Catapult Science
Explore the physics behind a catapult with a simple DIY catapult at home.
Catapults have been used throughout history as a way to launch something from point A to point B, sometimes over castle walls and sometimes into things. Experimenting with a catapult and launching objects at a target can be fun for families or classes, and a catapult activity invites discussion of both the physics and math at work in the way a catapult operates and in how accurate one's aim may be.
In this week's family-friendly STEM activity, students build and experiment with a very simple catapult made from wooden sticks and rubber bands. The catapult is easy to assemble, but this simple catapult helps students see how energy can be stored, transferred, and converted. As they use the catapult to launch lightweight cotton balls, students are encouraged to explore the variables that come into play and to explore the physics of projectiles. What controls how far the object flies? Can you hit your target? What is the best combination of catapult design and launch angle to make the cotton ball fly farthest?
The following Science Buddies activity on the Scientific American website has all the information you need to do this science activity with your students as a fun classroom activity or at home: Build a Catapult.
(With a bit of creative thinking, it's easy to turn this science activity into a game, too!)
More Catapult Science
To view related independent student projects at Science Buddies, see:
- Bombs Away! A Ping Pong Catapult
- Field Goal! The Science Behind a Perfect Football Kick
- Under Siege! Use a Catapult to Storm Castle Walls
- The Physics of Baseball and Hit Charts
- Bet You Can't Hit Me! The Science of Catapult Statistics
- Launch Time: The Physics of Catapult Projectile Motion
- Making It Real: Incorporating Physics in Video Games
- Effect of Trebuchet Arm Length or Counterweight Mass on Projectile Distance *
- Slime, Catapults, and Halloween Science
- Family Fun with Physics: Launching Plastic Eggs with the Ping Pong Catapult
View the Ping Pong Catapult science kit in the Science Buddies Store.