Sanity Savers: Catapult

sponsored by: national grid

Written by Dan Walsh
STEM Educator

Supplies ideas:

Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, toilet paper tube, hot glue, plastic spoon, plastic cup

Sanity Savers: Catapult


Build time: 5-10 minutes  

Academic Subjects:

Science/ Engineering  

This lesson supports the following standards:

ETS1.A: Defining Engineering Problems – A situation that people want to change or create can be approached as a problem to be solved through engineering. Such problems may have many acceptable solutions. (secondary to KPS2-2)

 ETS1.A: Defining Engineering Problems – Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

Directions for Mini-Basketball Catapults:  

Even though we may be missing out on basketball this season, we still can run fun science experiments around basketball. For today’s experiment, we will be building our own catapults and seeing if we can score a basket. 

TP Catapult instructions:

  1. There are many ways to build a catapult. A very basic catapult needs two things. A plastic spoon and a toilet paper roll.   
  2. Next, we will build a weight. Crumple up a small piece of paper and make sure it fits on the spoon. Only use light weights! A pom pom would also be great.   
  3. Once the glue is dry, place the paper ball on the spoon, make sure the area is clear and hit the end of the spoon. The ball will go flying into the air.
Sanity Savers: Catapult

Popsicle Stick Catapult Directions:

Rubber band at least three popsicle sticks on top of each other at both ends.
Rubber band two popsicle sticks together and leave one side open.
    Slide the two sets together.
Crisscross rubber bands across the middle.
Add your catapult! Depending on what supplies you have at home a small plastic cup can be glued down.
Or a plastic spoon can be tied to the middle with rubber bands.

Once your catapult is built, find a weight to launch. Make sure the weight is light. Students can use pom poms or a small piece of crumpled paper. Once you have a ball place it in the spoon or cup. Make sure the area is clear. Push down on the spoon or cup and let go! Your ball will go flying! If you are feeling up to the challenge grab another plastic cup and use that as your net! By using trial and error, you can keep moving the net until you score a basket!   


Catapult– A device used to launch objects.

Simple machine- any basic device that can apply force to an object. There are many different types of simple machines. They can include lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, and screw. 

Fulcrum– A device that is used to balance two things. In our basic catapult demonstration, it is the toilet paper roll. The fulcrum is used to pivot the lever and launch the weight.

Check out our other Sanity Savers posts here!

Field trips are back! Please be aware that it will be busier than usual.