Who knew STEM and specifically, physics could be so much fun? We did! Want to learn how to make a simple catapult with popsicle sticks? This Popsicle stick catapult design is an AWESOME STEM activity for kids of all ages! Exploring physics has never been so exciting for kids because everyone loves to launch stuff into the air. A catapult made out of popsicle sticks is the perfect kids’ activity for simple physics.

 POPSICLE STICK CATAPULT FOR KIDS’ STEM!popsicle stick catapult

HOW TO BUILD A CATAPULT 

These Popsicle stick catapults make a great STEM activity! We used technology to assist us in building our simple catapults. We used math to determine the supplies needed to build the catapults. We used our engineering skills to actually build the popsicle stick catapults. We used science to test how far the catapults flung the items we chose.

Which Popsicle stick catapult fired the farthest? Great start to finish STEM activity with simple physics science play at the end!

MORE CATAPULT DESIGNS

Explore how catapults work with other design ideas including:

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POPSICLE STICK CATAPULT

SUPPLIES:

  • 10 Jumbo Popsicle Sticks
  • Rubber Bands 
  • Firing Power (marshmallows, pompoms, pencil top erasers)
  • Plastic Spoon (optional
  • Bottle Cap
  • Sticky Dots

Popsicle Stick Catapult for Kids STEM Activity supplies tray

HOW TO MAKE A CATAPULT WITH POPSICLE STICKS

Note: You will also love making these pompom shooters or poppers too!

STEP 1:  Make predictions. Which object will fly the farthest?  Why do you think one will fly farther than the other?

STEP 2:  Hand out supplies to each individual or in small groups, and build a Popsicle stick catapult following the instructions below.

Read more about the science behind the catapult and simple ways to create a catapult science experiment below!

STEP 3:  Test and measure how far each item goes when flung from the catapult.  Record results.

This is a simple and quick Popsicle stick catapult using just two supplies. The best part is that you can also grab the supplies at the dollar store! Check out how we stock our dollar store engineering kit.

Adult supervision and assistance is highly recommended when using scissors.

popsicle stick catapult

STEP 4: You will want to use a pair of scissors to make two v notches on either side of two jumbo craft or Popsicle sticks (in the same place on both sticks). Use the photo below as a guide for where to make your notches.

Adults: This is a great step to prep ahead of time if you are making these popsicle stick catapults with a large group of kids.

how to build a catapult

Once you have made your notches in two of the sticks, set them aside!

STEP 5: Take the remaining 8 craft sticks and stack them one on top of the other. Wind a rubber band tightly around each end of the stack.

STEP 6: Go ahead and push one of the notched sticks through the stack under the top stick of the stack. Make sure to watch the video again to see this done.

how to build a popsicle stick catapult

At this point flip your partially made popsicle stick catapult over so that the stick you just pushed in is on the bottom of the stack.

STEP 7: Lay the second notched stick on top of the stack and secure the two popsicle sticks together with a rubber band as shown below. The V notches that you cut help to keep the rubber band in place.

popsicle stick catapult stem activity

Create more leverage with your catapult by pushing the stack of popsicle sticks towards the notched ends connected by the rubber band. Read about the science behind this below!

STEP 8: Use sticky dots or another strong adhesive to attach a bottle cap to the popsicle stick. Get ready to fire away!

VARIATION: You can also make a popsicle stick catapult with a spoon which is especially great for holding objects like plastic Easter eggs or fake eyeballs.

TRY IT AT HOME OR IN THE CLASSROOM

  • Simple and cheap materials (dollar store friendly)!
  • Quick to build with many age groups!
  • Easy to differentiate for different levels!
  • Kids can work in groups!
  • Incorporate math by measuring distance traveled.
  • Incorporate math by recording time in the air with stopwatches.
  • Incorporate the scientific method, make predictions, build models, test and record results, and draw conclusions!
  • A perfect way to illustrate a fun science concept!

catapult for kids

TURN IT INTO A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT!

You can easily set up an experiment by testing different weighted items to see which ones fly farther. Adding a measuring tape encourages simple math concepts that my 2nd grader is just really starting to explore.

Or you can build 2-3 different catapults and see which one works better or if one works better with different objects.

Always start out asking a question to come up with a hypothesis. Which item will go farther? I think xyz will go farther. Why? Have fun setting up a catapult to test the theory! Can you design a different catapult using the same materials?

This is an awesome way to reinforce what the child is learning with a super fun activity. Additionally, you can encourage older kids to record the data from measuring all the launches.

Have your kids fire each material {such as a candy pumpkin, plastic spider or eyeball} 10 times and record the distance each time. What kinds of conclusions can they draw from the information gathered? Which item worked the best? Which item didn’t work well at all?

You can also test out the number of popsicle sticks used in the stack to create the tension need to launch the catapult. How about 6 or 10! What are the differences when tested?

ALSO CHECK OUT: Easy Science Fair Projects

HOW DO CATAPULTS WORK?

This is a great simple physics activity for kids of multiple ages. What is there to explore that has to do with physics? Let’s start with energy including elastic potential energy. You can also learn about projectile motion.

Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion state that an object at rest stays at rest until a force is applied, and an object will stay in motion until something creates an imbalance in the motion. Every action causes a reaction.

When you pull down the lever arm all that potential energy gets stored up! Release it and that potential energy gradually changes over to kinetic energy. Gravity also does its part as it pulls the object back down to the ground.

If you want to delve deeper into Newton’s Laws, check out the information here.

You can talk about stored energy or potential elastic energy as you pull back on the Popsicle stick, bending it. When you release the stick all that potential energy is released into energy in motion producing the projectile motion.

A catapult is a simple machine that has been around for ages. Have your kids dig up a little history and research when the first catapults were invented and used! Hint; check out the 17th century!

CATAPULT BUILDING WITH OLDER KIDS

Older kiddos will benefit greatly from brainstorming, planning, creating, testing, and improving!

The goal/problem: Launch a ping pong ball from one end of the table to another while clearing the LEGO box!

His first design would not launch more than a foot on average. Of course, we took multiple test runs and wrote down the distances! The improvements he made launched the ball way off the table and more than 72″. Is it Pinterest worthy, not really. However, it’s the work of a junior engineer who solved a problem!

SIMPLE POPSICLE STICK CATAPULT BUILDING FOR KIDS

Click on the image below or on the link for more easy STEM activities for kids.

stem science activities

48 Comments

  1. Thanks! I needed a really simple idea that the kids can replicate at home. So much fun teaching science. They find all kinds of ways to change things and predict what will happen. This is real life!

  2. That’s too bad you feel that way. I think it’s great for testing predictions with different weighted objects. It makes a great screen free activity where kids can design and engineer their own catapults from their own designs.

  3. I have taught this lesson many times in middle school gifted classes. Its more about teaching collaboration and the engineering design process. Hold the students accountable to recording their data and iterations. Its good science regardless of what others might believe.

  4. Thank you! It is really what you make of it and what you extend to your kids. The older kids get the more involved the catapults can become with more elaborate data collections and challenges.

  5. That’s not true. STEM incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The children will, without realising, be developing all of these skills plus language, communication and teamwork skills if they are working with a partner/ parent.

  6. Very true! Just because something looks really simple and kids are playing, doesn’t mean it isn’t full of learning possibilities.

  7. I was wondering if anyone knows how to build a catapult out of pvc pipe and if so then can i get any advicwe on how to build one

  8. Hi! I have a question, in the directions it talks about watching a video and I can’t seem to find a video anywhere, can someone direct me to one? 🙂 im really excited to do this with the kids at my work!

  9. I love it! It didn’t work on the first try, but then it was awesome! thanks for the instructions!

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