English Class Fun Monday attendees learned by trial and error the mechanics of a simple machine catapult by constructing pompom launchers. The pupils used craft sticks, rubber bands, plastic spoons and masking tape for their constructions. As their explorations progressed, they learned to use their newly gained knowledge in physics and engineering to launch pompoms at a certain distance and angle and then they improved their launchers with trials. All of this valuable learning took place in the guise of fun!
The entire flinging/catapulting process depends on the storing of potential energy in the tension of a stretched rubber band, a bent spoon or the spoon arm that has been whacked. The potential energy is then released. The pompom missiles retain the kinetic energy from the work/action done on the arm. This kinetic energy launches the pompoms high into the air. It was interesting to see the pupils work out whether the length of the arm affected the height of the pompom’s flight path. Experiments were also conducted by the children to see if the size of the pompom made a difference in the distance traveled. Points were accorded for shooting accuracy and the overall winner of the pompom flinging session was sixth grader, Nikola.