Who wouldn't want to build a catapult?

This is a project every child enjoys and they don't even realize how much they are learning because it's just so much fun.

With inspiration from Teach Engineering: STEM Curriculum for K-12, we designed, tested, and built our own catapult.

Most kids (and adults) associate catapults with the middle ages, but there are still modern incarnations in use. The underlying math and science concepts are quite relevant to modern engineers as well.

Catapults give us a chance to talk about:

Force

Precision and accuracy (which aren't the same thing)

Angles

Projectiles

Mass

Speed

Gravity

Friction

Horizontal vs vertical distance

Time

Parabolas

Geometry

Those are just the scientific concepts directly associated with catapults. In real life, we wind up talking about an even broader spectrum of subjects.

What we put into action with our catapult lesson is the scientific method:

How far can we launch a specific projectile? (In this case, a beanbag.)

We research and learn about the above concepts.

Next we create a hypothesis - what's going to happen?

Then the fun part - build and test! Bombs away!

Now we have data - How far did it go? How high did it go? Let's keep track of our data.

What did we learn?

What's next? What if...? What one aspect can we change to learn something new?

What we DON'T do is probably something many of us did as students, years ago: we don't memorize. We aren't memorizing formulas to calculate mass or even definitions from a long list of terms.

In the 21st century, we all have encyclopedias in our pockets. It's often faster - and more accurate - to look up basic facts than remember them. And that gives kids the chance to get to the higher level, more engrossing concepts sooner.

And as they engage with those higher-level concepts? That basic information falls into place as well.

Hands-on, project-based learning is ideal for all children, but especially for those with learning disabilities.

Take a look at the sequence of photos below to check out one of our catapult launches!