Do you have popsicle sticks around the house that you don’t know what to do with? Check out this fun popsicle stick catapult STEM project that you can do with your kids!
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Do you have popsicle sticks or craft sticks somewhere in the house? If you are a parent of a toddler, I bet you do.
One of my dear friends got me a bunch of colorful popsicle sticks to teach my toddler how to recognize colors. Fast forward 1 year later, my toddler made major improvements when it comes to color recognition, but I still have a ton of these popsicle sticks left. Since they are dyed and intended for crafting purposes, I don’t want to use them to make popsicles.
I was flipping through Family Circle magazine at the dentist’s office the other day, and saw an idea for a popsicle stick catapult! Who doesn’t like flinging objects across the room with a catapult! Silly me, I didn’t take a picture of the instructions in the magazine, so when I got home I played around with popsicle sticks until I finally got a catapult that worked!
The best part is that I already had all the materials! Here is a simple DIY catapult that you can build with your kids with just rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and a spoon!
How to Build a Catapult with Popsicle Sticks
- Popsicle sticks (or craft sticks)
- Rubber bands
- Plastic Spoon
- Styrofoam Balls (or Pom Poms or marshmallows or anything that fits in the spoon)
- Make a stack of 7 popsicle sticks and use rubber bands to tie them together on both ends.
- Make a stack of 2 popsicle sticks and use a rubber band to tie them together on one end only.
- Pull the 2 popsicle sticks apart and wedge the stack of 7 popsicle sticks between them.
- Use two rubber bands, secure the plastic soon to the upper popsicle stick.
- Place the ball onto the spoon.
- Hold the catapult with one hand, use the other hand to push down the spoon.
- Release the spoon and watch the ball fly!
The Science Behind the Popsicle Stick Catapult
The biggest benefit of STEM projects is that you can show your kids the science visually, which helps them understand the concepts. That’s how I learned physics at school!
You probably heard of Newton’s Three Law of Motion (source):
- An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
- When an external force acts on a body, it produces an acceleration (change in velocity) of the body in the direction of the force.
- Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
You can explain to your child how without touching the catapult, nothing happens. The ball is not going to launch itself without you applying force.
When you pull back the spoon and let go, you overcome the ball’s inertia and fling the ball into the air. The force of the spoon exerted on the ball produces acceleration upward and makes the ball fly into the air. The action of letting go of the spoon causes the reaction of the ball getting launched.
You can also explain to your kid that because of gravity and air friction, the ball was pulled down to the ground instead of flying in the air forever. Then when the ball hits the ground, it bounced and rolled until the friction of the floor eventually stopped it.
If you have preschoolers, Newton’s laws may be a little complicated for their minds. However, you can always try to explain everything in simple terms and start introducing the concept of force and motion to them. You never know what they absorb and remember!
Popsicle Stick Catapult Activities
There are so many fun activities you can do with a popsicle stick catapult! You will find that your child may come up with his own ideas, but here are some to get you started:
Attack the Castle:
Build a castle with some lightweight blocks or even LEGO (without snapping the pieces together). Hurl balls at the castle and blast the castle wall open! Just make sure the blocks are not too heavy so that the balls have enough force to knock them over.
Go the Distance:
Make multiple catapults and see who can launch the ball the farthest!
This one is difficult, but fun at the same time! Place a bunch of cups on the floor. Have your child fling the balls at the cups and see how many balls land in the cups!
Switch It Up:
Try different objects to Do heavier objects go farther? How about flatter objects? You can even try chucking a slime ball (provided it’s not too sticky) at the wall or glass door and watch the slime ball go “splat!”
I hope you and your kids have lots of fun with this popsicle stick catapult activity! I love how it’s mess-free and I didn’t have to run out to the store to buy any materials to build the catapults.
And if you are finished playing with the popsicle stick catapults, you can always just take it part and use the popsicle sticks for other crafts or projects! Check out this easy popsicle stick rainbow craft your kids will love!
Did you try this popsicle stick catapult project with your kids? I would love to know how it turned out! Let me know in the comments.