PHYSICS CLASS BUILDS CATAPULTS
February 17, 2012
On February 17, Mrs.Chija Bauer's honors physics class at La Salle High School got to put what they were learning in class about energy and momentum into practice. The students worked in teams of two to build a catapult that would launch gumdrops 10 meters into a 30cm bull’s-eye.
The design criteria for the projects catapults were as follows: Maximum height of device with arm at lowest position – 0.4 meters. Maximum height of arm extended upwards – 2 meters. The throwing action must be the free action of the device. In other words, you may use human power to set and release the device, but you cannot hold the propulsion arm in place once it is set nor can human power be used to propel the gumdrop. There was no restriction on the orientation of the throwing arm. The catapult may throw the gumdrop overhand, side arm, or even underhand.
Materials used were restricted to typical household items with a $5. maximum expenditure for purchased items. No hazardous materials, rat traps or explosives were permitted. Typical materials included spoons, string, glue, rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, wooden dowels, chopsticks, mousetraps and wire hangars.
Students also tested how attaching a sling to their throwing mechanism, putting the catapult on an incline, and putting the entire catapult on wheels affected their accuracy and distance.