Education
Age range: 7-11
Duration: 60 or more mins
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  • D & T

Marshmallow catapults for kids

How to make a catapult and fire marshmallows

Did you know that the word ‘engineer’ was originally used to describe people responsible for building siege weapons in ancient times?

In this activity participants work in teams to assemble catapults using only six pieces of wood.

Compare which fires the furthest and which is the most accurate and record the maximum values for each team. During the testing students could be asked to identify how each catapult could have been made stronger or more effective.

Catapults need to have a structure which is both strong and stiff, otherwise the forces they experience when used can cause them to break. A catapult made from square shapes can be made significantly more rigid and less likely to collapse by adding reinforcement to form triangles.

This principle is still widely used in civil engineering, for structures ranging from cranes to aircraft structures and the roofs of buildings.

Activity info, teachers’ notes and curriculum links

Develop your students’ practical skills using a saw and a glue gun to construct a miniature catapult capable of firing a marshmallow. They also have the opportunity to develop their skills to work as part of a team.

This activity could be used in Key Stage 2 as a short design & technology project. It could also be integrated with history and drama; for example, pupils could act out a short script following the development of the catapult. One group of pupils could be villagers, based in a hill fort.

Other groups could represent different invaders through the ages, armed with different types of catapult (such as small Viking catapults, mangonels, onagers, trebuchets, couillard etc.), who describe their devices and their capabilities, and invade the village. In addition to the history and development of catapults (which can be found on many websites, including Wikipedia), this allows the opportunity for era-appropriate costumes!

Tools/resources required

For the marshmallow holders

  • Copies of the marshmallow catapults holder (handout) printed on card
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks

For the catapult structures

  • Square section softwood: 8 x 8 x 590 mm, 6 pieces per team plus spares
  • Saws
  • Vices, bench hooks, mitre boxes or similar devices to secure the wood when cutting
  • Glue guns (one per team)
  • 2 elastic bands per team (one small, one large) plus spares

For testing

  • A bag of marshmallows

Optional

  • Copies of the marshmallow catapults structures (handout) printed on paper
  • Sandpaper
  • Baseboards or A3/A4 pieces of cardboard for use as baseboards when using glue guns

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Download the free activity sheets below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download and are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

And please do share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation

Downloads

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