Program 22: Catapult Comeback!

Who doesn’t love catapults, right?  Our G3 scientists haven’t experimented with catapults since the very first program, so I thought it was a great time to revisit them and take a fresh look at just how many different kinds of catapults there are (and just how cool they really can be!).

We talked about several different kinds of catapults - sling shots, trebuchets, and even aircraft catapults – complete with video demonstrations from YouTube of all in action. [FUN FACT:  Did you know that there are actually sling shots with built-in digital cameras? Perfect for getting photos of your startled "victims" :)]  We checked out “the world’s largest slingshot,” we watched as a sneaky grasshopper catapulted lots of bugs off of a leaf, and we also saw some elderly gents from England who designed and built a gigantic trebuchet that could fling a full-sized car through a field! Even jets use catapults (powered by reservoirs of steam) to help in taking off from aircraft carriers.

Our target

Our target

For the initial version of our catapults, we each used instructions downloaded from the web site for PBS’s program called FETCH (“Target Practice“). Once models were ready to test, our G3 scientists tested them out by launching a variety of objects – pom poms of various sizes, red beans, lima beans, and even pasta! – at a Lego Ninjago target (last seen during our program about paper airplanes).

Ready to launch!

Ready to launch!

Ready...aim...FIRE!

Ready…aim…FIRE!

After all of the initial models had been tested, the G3 crew was encouraged to modify their catapults however they wanted…though most of our crew really just wanted to practice with their basic catapult model.  I provided a little extra incentive for our target practice. I attached two large drinking cups to the target and told the G3 crew that anyone who could sink a shot in one of the cups would get a special treat:  candy! And sure enough, we had a few scientists who were able to hone their skills for some amazing, candy-worthy shots. [Of course, all scientists got to leave with a piece of candy at the end of the program for terrific effort and scientific skill :) ]

Catapults definitely create a lot of mess for Nicole and her assistant Kaitlin to clean up…but they sure are a lot fun!

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