Introduction: Popsicle Stick Catapult for Elementary School
Standard 20: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use construction technologies.
Benchmark D: Manufacturing processes include designing products, gathering resources, and using tools to separate, form, and combine materials in order to produce products.
Target Ages: Grades 3-5
1. Discuss the importance of standardized parts.
2. Discuss the difference in cost of standardized parts vs individualized parts.
Teachers should have a basic knowledge of the cost difference between different types of popsicle sticks and rubber bands to lead the discussion on standardized parts vs individualized parts. Teachers should also have a basic knowledge on basic manufacturing and construction techniques. Teachers can collect bottle caps for the students to use or have each student bring in a recycled bottle cap.
Popsicle sticks: $4
Rubber Bands: $2
Bottle Cap: Recycled!
Step 1: Build the Base
Lay out four of the popsicle sticks in a square pattern and attach them by wrapping rubber bands around each corner. Start by attaching them loosely until you have the shape the way you want it then tighten the rubber bands around the corners diagonally to keep the shape.
Step 2: Build the Supports Part 1
Create two sets of popsicle sticks in a V shape and attach to the base by wrapping the rubber band around the corners of the V and the base. This will stabilize your base and provide a place for you to attach the rest of your project.
Step 3: Build the Supports Part 2
Add a popsicle stick to the underside of the V and 1/3 of the way up one side of the V. Make sure the rubber band for the bottom support is stretched across the width of the catapult. You will need this rubberband later. The easiest way to attach the top popsicle stick is to wrap it diagonally across the V and the horizontal popsicle stick.
Step 4: Add the Arm
Attach a support to the base of the catapult to hold the arm in place. Place the arm in between the lower support and the rubber band added in the last step. Slip the bottom part of the arm into the rubber band that holds the support in place (as shown in the 3rd picture).
Step 5: Finalize With Cup
Make a hole in the bottle cap (you may have to do this for younger students) and slip a rubberband through the hole. Leave a small loop at the "top" of the cap and a large loop at the "bottom". Slip the small loop around the popsicle stick used for the arm and tighten. Loop the leftover rubberband around the arm until the bottle cap is secure.
Step 6: Have Fun!
You can use your finished project to talk about mathematics or physics and introduce your students to these more complex topics. You can also just use it to have a bit of fun!