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Send Balls and More Flying With Homemade Catapult

Why not go have some fun with a basic tool that’s all around us — levers. Levers help us do work. They let us transport stuff that might be too heavy otherwise. Or they let us move stuff farther than we could without them.

At its most basic, a lever starts out as a bar. Along the bar, there are three parts to a lever:

  1. The part with the load.

  2. The part where force is applied.

  3. The fulcrum on which the bar rotates

To build a catapult, glue a bowl onto one end of a stick. Yard sticks are great for this! Place the center of the stick over a fulcrum like a coffee can. Then put a Ping-Pong ball — or six! — into the bowl. Slap the plain end down hard and watch the balls fly!

How does this work? The load is the balls, the fulcrum is the coffee can and the force is the hand slapping down.

How can you improve? What could you catapult (safely) that is different from the balls? How does this impact your distance? Use a bigger board or a larger fulcrum. How does that impact your range?

Can you find examples of levers in your home? At the playground? In nature? Good luck, and have fun with your catapult!

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