Tuesday, June 9, 2015

STEM Day - Building a Catapult

Before the end of the year, my students participated in STEM Day. The whole day was dedicated to this STEM activity. I will give you a brief overview of the day and how it incorporated reading, math, and science. The kids had a blast and was overall a great experience.

We started the experiment by brainstorming what a catapult was and reading an article. We watched a video of different catapults that people built and launched for a pumpkin launching contest. The kids really started getting intrigued.We went over the Engineering Design Process and then did a little brain teaser to get them ready.

Marshmallow Shooter- I gave each student a cup, ballon, and scissors. I told them to cut the bottom of the cup. Here is when it got interesting. Some students cut the whole bottom off and some just cut the inside. The whole point is for them to do it on their own and make mistakes. Then the cut the top off the balloon and attached it to the cup. Here some students realized they cut the balloon to big or cut too much off the cup. It was a great thing for them to see how one little mistake can change the outcome. I gave them marshmallows and they launched them. Some went far and some didn't go at all. I gave them time to discuss with their groups why some people were more successful than others.

Here are some pictures of the students creating and launching their marshmallow shooters.

After this, I explained how they were going to create their own catapult with different materials. I showed them their materials and explained that they would have $500 to spend on materials. All the materials had different dollar amounts. Before they worked with a group, they designed their own catapult. After the individual designs were completed, they shared as a group and then decided on the best design to go with. Once they agreed, they had to decide on the materials needed and add them up. I gave them $500 in play money to help with this. Most groups spend under $400 in case they needed more. I gave them no direction in this, they just decided on their own. 

Here are the available materials and some pictures of their designs. 

Once I approved their design and they paid for their materials, it was time to build their catapult! Their goal was to build a catapult that could launch a marshmallow the furthest. 

Here are their final products.

Now it was time to launch the catapults! The groups didn't have much success. After launching a few times, they went back to the drawing board to fix why their catapults didn't work very well. They could use the same materials or buy more if they had any remain change left from the $500. Once they redesigned and launched again, all catapults went further! The students learned so much and more importantly, learned that making mistakes is ok and a part of life.

Here are some videos of the catapults.


You can truly see how much fun the kids had!

-- Kate

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