South-Doyle Students Catapult Into EngineeringPosted by Josh Flory on 10/4/2018
The catapults ranged in size from mousetrap-tiny to human-sized, but the engineering lessons loomed large at South-Doyle Middle School on Thursday.
Chip Strickland led South-Doyle students in an outdoor Science Olympiad and Enrichment class aimed at highlighting the engineering process. To that end, each student had constructed a catapult and got to shoot a marble or golf ball three times.
The point, according to Strickland, wasn’t so much the invention itself, as teaching students how to improve their inventions.
“When you have a problem, you build a prototype, you test it, if it doesn’t work you go back to … the drawing board and say, ‘Okay, what went wrong, what went right?’” Strickland said. “And they go through that process again to see if they can actually improve.”
Cody Collette, a 7th grader, launched the farthest-flying marble in the “tiny” category, using a catapult made of a mousetrap, popsicle sticks, electrical tape and hot glue. He worked on the project with his father, and said it took about four hours from start to finish.
Max Hull, an 8th grader, made a catapult that stood more than six feet tall, using lumber salvaged from their old pool deck.
During the process of testing, Max said he learned that the arm of his catapult was slowing down at the top of its rotation, mainly because the tension was being released at that point. But his device still managed to fling a golf ball most of the way across a small parking lot, a feat that impressed the classmates who were watching.
Students had two weekends and five days to build and test the catapults at home, and competed within several size categories. They will also give oral or video presentations focused on what they would do differently the next time.
Strickland said he tries to get students to apply what they learn in science classes to application and design in his class, and later in the year they’ll move on to projects including energy transfers, dynamics of flight and rocketry design.