Design


Catapult near Castle Saint-Angel, Italy

(jacqueline macou, Pixabay) Catapult near Castle Saint-Angel, Italy

Let’s Talk Science

How does this align with my curriculum?

Course Grade Topic

AB
Science 1-6 (1996)
4
Topic B. Wheels and Levers
BC
Science Grade 5 (June 2016)
5
Machines are devices that transfer force and energy, which is the big idea.
MB
Science Grade 5 (2000)
5
Cluster 3: Forces and Simple Machines



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Students collaborate to design and build a device that launches ping-pong balls using simple machines.

Overview

Students will design and test a device that will launch a ping-pong ball as far as possible or up and over an obstacle using simple machines.

Timing
45-60 minutes

Setting the Stage

Prior Skills and Knowledge

Before participating in this Design & Build challenge, students should have prior knowledge and skills related to the use of simple machines. Students should be able to use basic cutting tools and fasteners for construction in order to participate successfully in this Design & Build lesson.

Context

Humans have been trying to figure out how to get objects over obstacles for millennia. People in ancient times devised devices known as This usually entailed launching the object into the air and over the obstacle with the help of some sort of device. catapults to solve this problem. Catapults include the mangonel (The force is applied by applying tension to the fulcrum, which pivots at one end) and trebuchet Force is transferred through a mechanical system in these devices to propel an object such as a rock (or pumpkin) up, up, and away! (The force is applied by a counterweight at the end of the fulcrum, which pivots at its center.)

Students will collaborate to design and test a device that uses simple machines to launch a ping-pong ball either a) as far as possible or b) up and over an obstacle such as a badminton or volleyball net. Students can predict how a given force affects the distance traveled by an object in this Design & Build challenge, as well as compare how forces of different magnitudes result in different distances traveled by propelled objects.

This design and build could begin from:

  • Use questions like these to start a discussion: Students’ questions and/or comments after viewing images of early society devices such as catapults and trebuchets.
    • How would their constructors know if it worked?” “What do you think the purpose of these devices was?
    • “Can you tell me how you think this device works? What simple machines does it employ to assist it in achieving its goal?”
    • “How did the constructors decide where the object would land? Do you believe they were able to be as accurate as they claimed? Why do you believe that?”
Trebuchet being made ready for launch
Trebuchet being made ready for launch (Source: Christian Günther via Pixabay).

  • students’ questions and/or comments after watching videos of modern-day catapults or trebuchets (e.g., videos of a “pumpkin catapult ” on YouTube).
    • “What is causing the pumpkin to move?” says the narrator.
    • “How do you think the pumpkin would react if a stronger force was applied to it?”
    • “How would you know how much force is being used?”
  • going on a field trip to a demonstration of catapults at an event (e.g., a renaissance fair or a local pumpkin-throwing contest).
Pumpkin trebuchet used at the 2008 Punkin Chunkin World Championships
The 2008 Punkin Chunkin World Championships featured a pumpkin trebuchet (Source: GB fan [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons).

Design Criteria

Students brainstorm criteria for their ping-pong ball launcher prototypes as a class. Other curriculum-specific criteria, such as using specific types or numbers of joiners/fasteners, measuring, using specific materials, and so on, may be added by educators.

Design criteria examples:

  • Must be able to go up and over a badminton net OR must be able to get as far away from the starting position as possible.
  • A minimum of two different types of simple machines must be used.
  • Must use 3 joiners/fasteners
  • A way to change where the ball lands (adjust the height of the launcher) must be included.
  • When purchasing materials, spend a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $10.

Details

Materials

  • cardboard boxes and tubes, various sizes
  • craft sticks
  • cups, assorted, small (e.g., paper, Styrofoam)
  • elastic bands, various sizes
  • fastening materials (tape, glue, etc.)
  • paper (construction, cardstock, etc.)
  • paper clips
  • ping-pong balls (one per group)
  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors (1/student group)
  • straws, drinking
  • string
  • tape, masking
  • safety glasses

Materials

  • cardboard boxes and tubes, various sizes
  • craft sticks
  • cups, assorted, small (e.g., paper, Styrofoam)
  • elastic bands, various sizes
  • fastening materials (tape, glue, etc.)
  • paper (construction, cardstock, etc.)
  • paper clips
  • ping-pong balls (one per group)
  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors (1/student group)
  • straws, drinking
  • string
  • tape, masking
  • safety glasses

Preparation

  • Collect a variety of recycled and new materials for the students to use in their prototypes. The materials list provided above is merely a suggestion.
  • Determine the amount of materials required for each working group and organize them.

  • Option:
    This could be part of the design criteria (e.g., you must spend at least $5 and no more than $10). Set aside a certain amount of play money for each student, and create a ‘store’ where they can ‘purchase’ their materials.
  • For testing, choose a large open area (such as a gym or the outdoors). Students should wear safety glasses.

Preparation

  • The materials list provided above is merely a suggestion. Collect a variety of recycled and new materials for the students to use in their prototypes.
  • Determine the amount of materials required for each working group and organize them.

  • Option:
    Set aside a certain amount of play money for each student, and create a ‘store’ where they can ‘purchase’ their materials. This could be part of the design criteria (e.g., you must spend at least $5 and no more than $10).
  • For testing, choose a large open area (such as a gym or the outdoors). Students should wear safety glasses.

What to Do

Students develop and apply Design & Build They’ll use their creativity to design, build, and test a ping-pong launcher prototype.

The steps of the Design & Build process will be followed by the students:

  • determine the issue to be resolved/need to be met
  • brainstorm criteria that the prototype must meet
  • share their concerns and suggestions for resolving the issue/need
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option so that a viable solution can be chosen to be tested.
  • Visualize how the solution might appear and create design sketches based on their ideas.
  • Create a design plan (e.g., identify the tasks or key steps involved in developing the solution, decide on the tools and materials that will be required, and include labelled sketches)
  • based on the design plan, build/develop the design idea
  • test their prototypes based on the design criteria
  • As needed, modify the prototype and retest it against the design criteria.
  • Think about their findings and what they could do to improve their prototypes.
Stirling Warwolf Trebuchet model
Stirling Warwolf Trebuchet model (CC BY 3.0 via Ron L. Toms) Wikimedia Commons).

What to Do

Students develop and apply Design & Build They’ll use their creativity to design, build, and test a ping-pong launcher prototype.

The steps of the Design & Build process will be followed by the students:

  • determine the issue to be resolved/need to be met
  • brainstorm criteria that the prototype must meet
  • share their concerns and suggestions for resolving the issue/need
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option so that a viable solution can be chosen to be tested.
  • Visualize how the solution might appear and create design sketches based on their ideas.
  • Create a design plan (e.g., identify the tasks or key steps involved in developing the solution, decide on the tools and materials that will be required, and include labelled sketches)
  • based on the design plan, build/develop the design idea
  • test their prototypes based on the design criteria
  • As needed, modify the prototype and retest it against the design criteria.
  • Think about their findings and what they could do to improve their prototypes.
Stirling Warwolf Trebuchet model
Stirling Warwolf Trebuchet model (CC BY 3.0 via Ron L. Toms) Wikimedia Commons).

Assessment

Using anecdotal comments, photos, and/or video recordings, observe and document the student’s ability to:


  • Work Collaboratively
    – Throughout the Design & Build process, students collaborate to complete a task and evaluate their group processes.

  • Generate Ideas
    – Students employ skills and strategies for generating ideas, such as brainstorming, to identify potential solutions and make decisions about the benefits and drawbacks of each option

  • Communicate
    – students express their ideas and learning through words, sketches, photos, videos, and other media (for example, in identifying the problem, in design plans that include 2D design sketches and key design steps/tasks, and in lists of materials/equipment/tools).

  • Work Safely
    – While using a variety of tools and materials, students demonstrate safe practices. prototyping
  • Test – students use skills of observing and recording data as they test their prototypes

  • Reflect
    – students reflect on their prototype testing results and make suggestions for how they could improve their prototypes.

Assessment

Using anecdotal comments, photos, and/or video recordings, observe and document the student’s ability to:


  • Work Collaboratively
    – Throughout the Design & Build process, students collaborate to complete a task and evaluate their group processes.

  • Generate Ideas
    – Students employ skills and strategies for generating ideas, such as brainstorming, to identify potential solutions and make decisions about the benefits and drawbacks of each option

  • Communicate
    – students express their ideas and learning through words, sketches, photos, videos, and other media (for example, in identifying the problem, in design plans that include 2D design sketches and key design steps/tasks, and in lists of materials/equipment/tools).

  • Work Safely
    – While using a variety of tools and materials, students demonstrate safe practices. prototyping
  • Test – students use skills of observing and recording data as they test their prototypes

  • Reflect
    – students reflect on their prototype testing results and make suggestions for how they could improve their prototypes.

Co-constructed Learning

Students:
Saying, Doing, Representing
Educator:
Interactions: Responding, Challenging
The problem to be solved/need to be met is identified and refined by the students.
  • “Do you have any knowledge of ping-pong balls and how they travel?”
  • “What is the purpose of your device?”
For the ping-pong ball launcher, students brainstorm and write down criteria.
  • “What words could we use to describe some of the features that a successful launcher must have?”
  • “How will the force be applied to the ball?” says the narrator.
Students create design sketches based on their visualizations of what the solution might look like.
  • “Why do engineers label every part of their design sketches?” you might wonder.
  • “How will you depict each component of the launcher in the design sketch?”
  • “How are you going to make sure the launcher is safe to use?”
Students make observations and decisions about the tools and materials available to them.
  • “Can you tell me what materials you’ll need to make your launcher?”
  • “What tools do you think you’ll need to build your launcher?”
Based on their sketches and design plan, students build/develop and test the design idea (create the “prototype”).
  • “Why or why not?” you might wonder. “Does the launcher perform as expected?
  • “What changes could you make to your model to make the ball fly higher/further?”
Students make necessary changes to the prototype and retest it against the design criteria.
  • “What issues did you encounter when re-testing your launcher?”
  • “How can you improve the accuracy of your launcher?”
  • “How would you change your design to make it more user-friendly?”
Students reflect on their testing results and identify areas where things could be done better in the future.
  • “Which materials proved to be the most effective? What materials didn’t work as well as they should have?”
  • “What obstacles did your team face while working together to complete the challenge?”
  • “What would you do differently next time?”

 

Co-constructed Learning

Students:
Saying, Doing, Representing
Educator:
Interactions: Responding, Challenging
The problem to be solved/need to be met is identified and refined by the students.
  • “Do you have any knowledge of ping-pong balls and how they travel?”
  • “What is the purpose of your device?”
For the ping-pong ball launcher, students brainstorm and write down criteria.
  • “What words could we use to describe some of the features that a successful launcher must have?”
  • “How will the force be applied to the ball?” says the narrator.
Students create design sketches based on their visualizations of what the solution might look like.
  • “Why do engineers label every part of their design sketches?” you might wonder.
  • “How will you depict each component of the launcher in the design sketch?”
  • “How are you going to make sure the launcher is safe to use?”
Students make observations and decisions about the tools and materials available to them.
  • “Can you tell me what materials you’ll need to make your launcher?”
  • “What tools do you think you’ll need to build your launcher?”
Based on their sketches and design plan, students build/develop and test the design idea (create the “prototype”).
  • “Why or why not?” you might wonder. “Does the launcher perform as expected?
  • “What changes could you make to your model to make the ball fly higher/further?”
Students make necessary changes to the prototype and retest it against the design criteria.
  • “What issues did you encounter when re-testing your launcher?”
  • “How can you improve the accuracy of your launcher?”
  • “How would you change your design to make it more user-friendly?”
Students reflect on their testing results and identify areas where things could be done better in the future.
  • What materials didn’t work as well as they should have?” “Which materials proved to be the most effective?
  • “What obstacles did your team face while working together to complete the challenge?”
  • “What would you do differently next time?”

 

Cross-curricular Connections

Literacy

  • Ask questions (e.g., “In the past, what role did devices like these play?” “What kinds of tasks could this device assist us with?” “What about your device surprised you?” )
  • Communicate thoughts, feelings, and ideas (for example, while brainstorming launcher criteria, in design plans that include 2D design sketches, an outline of key design steps/tasks, and lists of required materials and equipment/tools; discuss solutions for construction challenges)
  • Use a variety of media to gather information (e.g., books, videos, and in-person experiences).

Mathematical Thinking

  • Represent using pictures, diagrams, graphs, tables, numbers, words, and/or symbols (e.g., sketch their vision of how their launcher might meet the established criteria; use tables to record their launcher’s tests and redesigns).
  • Using both standard and non-standard measures, determine the distance traveled horizontally and/or vertically.

Cross-curricular Connections

Literacy

  • Ask questions (e.g., “In the past, what role did devices like these play?” “What about your device surprised you?” “What kinds of tasks could this device assist us with?”)
  • Communicate thoughts, feelings, and ideas (for example, while brainstorming launcher criteria, in design plans that include 2D design sketches, an outline of key design steps/tasks, and lists of required materials and equipment/tools; discuss solutions for construction challenges)
  • Use a variety of media to gather information (e.g., books, videos, and in-person experiences).

Mathematical Thinking

  • Represent using pictures, diagrams, graphs, tables, numbers, words, and/or symbols (e.g., sketch their vision of how their launcher might meet the established criteria; use tables to record their launcher’s tests and redesigns).
  • Using both standard and non-standard measures, determine the distance traveled horizontally and/or vertically.

Extending the Learning

If your students are curious, the following information may pique their interest:

  • Encourage students to apply what they’ve learned in this challenge to a real-world problem, such as how to make:
    • an automatic ping-pong ball launcher
    • a launcher capable of landing the ball on a ping-pong table
    • a launcher capable of consistently landing balls in a bucket
    • a launcher for launching a toy for a dog to retrieve
  • Discuss how the launcher could be modified to launch other objects such as tennis balls, basketballs, pumpkins, and so on.
  • Originality, cost (if using play money), purpose (e.g., launching a dog toy), accuracy, and other factors could be considered when judging the machines. Allow students to present their launchers to a mock “Dragon’s Den” panel (made up of teachers, older students, and/or members of the community).
ping-pong ball, paddle and net
ping-pong ball, paddle and net (Source: Sascha Düser via Pixabay).

Extending the Learning

If your students are curious, the following information may pique their interest:

  • Encourage students to apply what they’ve learned in this challenge to a real-world problem, such as how to make:
    • an automatic ping-pong ball launcher
    • a launcher capable of landing the ball on a ping-pong table
    • a launcher capable of consistently landing balls in a bucket
    • a launcher for launching a toy for a dog to retrieve
  • Discuss how the launcher could be modified to launch other objects such as tennis balls, basketballs, pumpkins, and so on.
  • Originality, cost (if using play money), purpose (e.g., launching a dog toy), accuracy, and other factors could be considered when judging the machines. Allow students to present their launchers to a mock “Dragon’s Den” panel (made up of teachers, older students, and/or members of the community).
ping-pong ball, paddle and net
ping-pong ball, paddle and net (Source: Sascha Düser via Pixabay).

Supporting Media

  • Pumpkin Catapult (2018) National Geographic — Video (3:09 min.) Demonstrating a variety of catapult inventions in action as part of a pumpkin catapulting competition.
  • Pumpkin Catapult(2010) M64Sport — Video (3:32 min.) of a Boy Scout pumpkin tossing competition.

Supporting Media

  • Pumpkin Catapult (2018) National Geographic — Video (3:09 min.) Demonstrating a variety of catapult inventions in action as part of a pumpkin catapulting competition.
  • Pumpkin Catapult(2010) M64Sport — Video (3:32 min.) of a Boy Scout pumpkin tossing competition.

Learn More

Catapult Facts for KidsKiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Ki On this kids’ website, you can learn everything there is to know about catapults.

Simple Machines – Levers (Backgrounders) 

Simple machines, such as the lever, are a type of simple machine. Learn about the various types of levers and how they work to give you a mechanical advantage.

Simple Machines: Levers (Picture Collections) 

6 images of objects that use the lever principle to create movement for a specific purpose, such as tweezers, scissors, and wheel barrows.

Learn More

Catapult Facts for KidsKiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Kiddle Encyclopedia — Ki On this kids’ website, you can learn everything there is to know about catapults.

Simple Machines – Levers (Backgrounders) 

Learn about the various types of levers and how they work to give you a mechanical advantage. Simple machines, such as the lever, are a type of simple machine.

Simple Machines: Levers (Picture Collections) 

6 images of objects that use the lever principle to create movement for a specific purpose, such as tweezers, scissors, and wheel barrows.

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