This post is a shoutout to my father-in-law, who recently had kids (aged 4-12) make catapults out of Dollar Store materials at a school open house. He made one working model as an example in case students really needed help starting, but otherwise aimed to not tell students how to make them and encouraged them to put together what they wanted. The art teacher also had a center set up for the kids to decorate their catapults. I love the incorporation of both art and the design process.

I’ve used catapults for quadratic modeling before, and would love to modify that activity with some of the aspects from this one:

  1. Using the bigger plastic cups. I had paper ones before that weren’t very sturdy.
  2. Throwing a non-edible item such as frogs. This would cut down on the mess–M&M’s got all over the classroom floor, which made for more difficult cleanup.
  3. Design process. I might price out the materials and have students try to design catapults at the lowest cost.
  4. Art. When I did this before, all the catapults looked the same.

Math ideas:

  1. From husband: look at the distribution of distances over a large group and see what patterns evolve
  2. Quadratic modeling to have them try to hit certain targets in the room (vs. hitting the same target from a different starting height)
  3. Quadratic modeling using Desmos
  4. Accuracy and precision with many trials of the same catapult


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