My son participates in a school science club. They recently had to pick 2 projects to make for a regional competition. He chose to make a rubber band powered airplane and a catapult. For some reason, I thought he only had to choose 1 of the 2 and that he had chosen the airplane. I felt confident that he could manage that one on his own with some balsa wood, glue, and an X-acto blade. About 3 days before the project was due, he made me understand that he actually needed to make a catapult too! My husband was out of town so this left me with the responsibility of helping him make a version of the torsion catapult that he’d found online.
I’m a metalsmith, not a wood worker! I don’t like all of that sawdust. I don’t keep a pile of 2 x 4s on hand. Luckily, we had a stash of wood, nails and screws in the metal workshop. Because our supplies were smaller than those shown on the website, we scaled his catapult down (visually, not mathematically.) As you can see, after several evening work sessions, our catapult worked!
Ian’s torsion catapult 2014 from K. Skiles on Vimeo.
During the actual competition, the catapult had to shoot a ping pong ball 10 times in 2 minutes. We used nails more than screws, so my son reported that the tin basket flew off with the ping pong ball on the 5th shot. He also said that the stop bar was starting to pull off from the stress of the swing arm whacking against it.
The whole time that we were working on the project, I felt like a teenager again, working on a last minute project. I’m actually excited about these mechanical projects now and looking forward to next year’s competition, though next year, we will start much earlier.
By the way, the airplane was a fail, but we have better plans for that next time.
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