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Experiment Objective: Students will design and construct a catapult and use it as a marshmallow launcher. They will learn the simple mechanics behind the catapult and forces. The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to use simple machine to build a device used for launching purposes. Learning Goals: Students will learn the mechanics of a simple machine catapult and use its properties to construct a marshmallow launcher. They will use their knowledge in physics and engineering to launch marshmallows at a certain distance and angle. Students will be able to explore how they can improve their launcher upon trials.


Introduction: A catapult is a mechanism used to throw missiles in ancient and medieval warfare. At first, catapults were specifically designed to shoot spears or other missiles at a low trajectory. They were originally distinguished from ballistae and trebuchets, both of which were large military engines used to hurl stones and other missiles, but these distinctions later blurred. Soon after, larger catapults mounted on a single arm also hurled stones, pots of boiling oil, and incendiaries at a high trajectory. They were used to attack or defend fortifications. Catapults were widely employed in siege warfare, but with the introduction of artillery they passed from use. In the 20th century catapults using hydraulic pressure were reintroduced to launch aircraft from warships. Lesson Background and Concepts: What Is a Catapult? A catapult is a machine that is similar to a giant slingshot. Objects, such as boulders, can be positioned on the catapult and hurled over distances. Catapults were used in ancient times to attack castles and fortresses by throwing large objects over moats and walls. Modern soldiers have also used catapults: During World War I they were used to propel grenades and gas bombs over long distances. In naval warfare a catapult can be used to launch aircraft from the deck of a ship.

How Does It Work? The catapult has a basket on the end of a movable arm strong enough to hold the weight of object it is intended to hurl. Tension is applied to arm, which is forced down and secured in place; springs and twisted ropes are two ways to provide the necessary tension. After the object is added to the basket, the bindings are cut or removed. The arm then succumbs to the tension and flips to the other side, like pulling a rubber band and then releasing. The object is propelled forward. General definition of a catapult: to hurl an object through the air. There are are three primary technologies that fall into the "catapult" category. Catapult -winched-down bucket. -originally, "catapult" is referred to a dartthrower. In modern times, catapult can be used to describe any machine that hurls a projectile. This can include a slingshot used to hurl pebbles and a machine that launches airplanes off aircraft carriers. Ballista -a very large crossbow. -a weapon developed from earlier Greek weapons. It relied upon different mechanics, using two levers with torsion springs, the springs consisting of several loops of twisted skeins.

Trebuchet -a weighted beam that swings a sling carrying the projectile. -a trebuchet tends to be easier to build because it consists simply of a pivoting beam and a counterweight that rotates the beam through an arc.

Both catapults and ballistas work by storing tension either in twisted ropes or in a flexed piece of wood (in the same way an archery bow does, but on a larger scale).

Work can be done on the catapult quite slowly, when the elastic is slowly stretched. This provides a store of elastic potential energy, which can be expended quite quickly in accelerating the stone of ball to a reasonably high speed. Three properties can be exemplified in the use of a catapult: elasticity, energy, and force. Elasticity is seen in the measure of the stretch of the spring loaded in the catapult. This will demonstrate the accuracy of the delivery of the object being flung. Second, energy is present in the conversion of it from potential into kinetic energy. This could demonstrate and determine the range of the object. Finally, force can be studied and measured in the projectile motion. Projectile Motion A projectile is an object upon which the only force acting is gravity. There are a variety of examples of projectiles. An object dropped from rest is a projectile (provided that the influence of air resistance is negligible). An object which is thrown vertically upward is also a projectile (provided that the influence of air resistance is negligible). And an object is which thrown upward at an angle to the horizontal is also a projectile (provided that the influence of air resistance is negligible). A projectile is any object which once projected or dropped continues in motion by its own inertia and is influenced only by the downward force of gravity. By definition, a projectile has only one force acting upon it - the force of gravity. If there was any other force acting upon an object, then that object would not be a projectile. Thus, the free-body diagram of a projectile would show a single force acting downwards and labeled force of gravity. Regardless of whether a projectile is moving downwards, upwards, upwards and rightwards, or downwards and leftwards, the free-body diagram of the projectile is still as depicted in the diagram at the right. By definition, a projectile is any object upon which the only force is gravity.

Projectile Motion and Air Resistance If projectiles were only launched from the surface of the moon where there is no atmosphere, then the effects of gravity, as described in the previous section, would be sufficient to determine the flight path. On Earth, however, the atmosphere will influence the motion of projectiles. As opposed to the situation due to purely gravitational effects, projectile motion with air resistance will be dependent on the weight and shape of the object. As one would suspect, lighter objects are more strongly affected by air resistance. In many cases, air resistance will produce a drag force which is proportional to the velocity squared. The effects of increased air drag on an object such as a cannon ball will cause it to fall short of its normal range without air resistance. This effect may be significant. It was realized that cannon balls would travel farther distances if aimed at higher elevations, due to decreased air density and decreased drag.

More subtle effects of air resistance on projectile motion are related to the shape and rotation of the object. Clearly, the shape of an object can have an effect on its projectile motion, as anyone has experienced by wadding up a piece of paper before tossing it into the waste can. The rotation of an object is important also. For example, a good quarterback always puts a spin on a football when making a pass. Lab Activity Instructions: Students will perform the construction of a marshmallow launcher in their groups. Instructors will explain the how a catapult works and the basic physics concepts behind the construction. Students are given different materials and they can choose their supply for making the launcher. Upon completion, they will compete for the greatest launching distance. Allow one instructor for demonstration and other instructors as assistants around the classroom. The Problem and Challenge: Design a catapult that will throw a marshmallow the greatest distance.

Materials: 1 popsicle stick (the double kind, or 2 singles), 2 erasers (3-4cm long), 1 mousetrap (optional), 1 elastic band, 1 spoon, duct tape, heavy book, marshmallows (different sizes) Procedure: 1. You can use the mousetrap to build a catapult or construct the catapult from popsicle sticks. Carefully pull back the mousetrap lever and watch your fingers. Wrap the elastic band around the base of the mousetrap to hold the lever down. 2. Place one eraser against the hinge of the trap and tape it in place. 3. Place the second eraser on top of the first, slightly over the hinge. Tape it in place. 4. Carefully remove the elastic band from around the lever (watch those fingers!). 5. Break one Popsicle stick in half and tape it horizontally across the lever. 6. Tape the other popsicle stick to the lever so that it is perpendicular to the first stick. Tape the spoon to this second stick. This is your catapult, mechanism to used to throw missiles in ancient and medieval warfare. At first, catapults were specifically designed to shoot spears or other missiles. 7. Tape the entire trap to a heavy book to act as your base. Ready, aim and fire. Pull back the spoon and load it with a marshmallow and let it fly. Have a target and shoot in that direction, this is more challenging. Note: A catapult is a lever that not only makes it easier to lift a load, but also moves it faster. In this case, the hinge of the mousetrap is your fulcrum, the marshmallow is the load and the spoon is the load arm. Expected Outcome: The catapult can throw marshmallows out and the distance of throws will be measured. The teams will compete for the greatest distance thrown. Checking for student understanding: Ask students during the catapult construction process how will they design and build the catapult. Encourage them to be creative and use the materials available to construct their unique catapult. Promote their critical thinking and use the concepts from the lesson. Extensions and connections: Students can extend this activity to the making of other simple machines and devices. They can think about where they can use catapult in real life and how they are useful in terms of its mechanism. They can connect to the ancient catapult and explain they

Physics and Engineering-Simple Machines and Catapult References: Home%20page-%20Aaron%20Dhillon.htm