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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
2 hours
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Mechanical Engineering
Key Concepts
Engineering design
Learning Objectives
  • Design and build a ball-launching device and receiver based on specified criteria.
  • Iteratively test, redesign, and modify the devices to improve their performance.
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

Overview

Add a twist to a traditional "build a catapult" engineering project with this fun lesson plan based on the 2018 global Fluor Engineering Challenge. Your students must build a device to launch a ball as far as possible—but they also have to build another device to catch it! With detailed rules and guidelines for a class-wide competition, this lesson is a great way to teach your students about the engineering design process.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

  • MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.
ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.

There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem.

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution. The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution.
Structure and Function. Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.

Materials


Tape, plastic cups, a ruler, rubber bands, paperclips, pencils, a sheet of cardboard and a ball of aluminum foil

Each group will need the following materials:

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
2 hours
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Mechanical Engineering
Key Concepts
Engineering design
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Learning Objectives
  • Design and build a ball-launching device and receiver based on specified criteria.
  • Iteratively test, redesign, and modify the devices to improve their performance.
Free science fair projects.