You may be familiar with the different seasons of the calendar year. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of some of these: ski season, mud season, leaf peeper season, strawberry season But, have you ever heard of stick season? That’s the time of year after the leaves have fallen but before the snow takes hold- so right now!
This year, our stick season has also been uncommonly warm, so our Lincoln METCO Explore Club students have really enjoyed getting outside to take advantage of the abundance of the season. As we’ve been learning about simple machines outside, we decided to dig deep into levers and build stick catapults. This activity is simple and takes 1-2 hours to complete, plus more if your trip outside to collect sticks becomes an adventure in itself. So, if you want to make it your own, read on below to try it yourself.
How to Make Stick catapults
(Adapted from: EngineeringAcademy.homstead.com)
Masking tape (wider tape is easier for the triangles, and thinner tape is easier for the launcher)
Spoon (or some other material to contain what you are launching)
9 sticks of approximately the same length, and 1 longer stick. Look for sticks that are sturdy enough they will be able to handle the force of your catapult.
Acorns (or other projectiles to launch)
- Start by taping together three individual triangles. It is often easiest to tape the edges together and then bend the triangle into shape.
- Tape together two of your triangles, taping alongside a long portion of the triangle. Make sure you can move the triangles enough so you can pull the sides apart and rest them (like a textbook you can stand on its edges). If two of your triangles are closer in size to each other, use them for this step, and the differently sized one for the next step.
- Tuck your third triangle along the bottom of your two taped triangles like a wedge. This will make your triangles a pyramid. Tape together the sides of the triangles again so all edges are secured together.
- Take your 10th stick and push it into the corner where all of your triangles come together on the bottom. It’s a bit challenging to tape it in enough so that it’s secure and won’t fall out, but make sure you don’t tape it in so securely that the stick can’t move. Just keep tweaking until it feels right.
These next two steps are the two main ways you can change the way your catapult works, so you can certainly extend the exploration by really adjusting the next two variables several times and seeing the effects it has on the launch of your catapult.
- Tape your projectile launching device (for us, this was a spoon, but a bottlecap may work better) to your launching stick. You may want to try using the catapult with this at different points along the launcher, so try to tape it as loosely as possible (or use rubber bands) until you’ve picked your permanent location).
- Loop a rubber band around the top of your stick pyramid and the launcher. This rubber band will provide the force for your catapult, so you can play around with the number of rubber bands you use or how you secure the rubber bands until you feel you’ve got it right.
Then go ahead and LAUNCH YOUR ACORNS! You can try target practice, distance challenges, or any other sort of challenge you can think of. If you try this project at home we’d love to see your pictures! Post them to our Facebook Page