Popsicle Stick Catapult

Building a popsicle stick catapult is one of the most iconic STEM activities for kids. The activity is a great way to incorporate math, physics and engineering concepts into one experiment. Additionally, this experiment helps children learn about science concepts like energy, force, and motion while they have fun. 

One of the best ways to help kids understand their science lessons is by demonstrating them with science experiments for kids. Building a popsicle stick catapult is a great way to help kids learn important physics, math and engineering concepts. Here is a step-by-step guide to building a popsicle stick catapult.

Things You Need to Make a Popsicle Stick Catapult

  • Rubber bands
  • Pom poms (or cotton balls)
  • Plastic spoon
  • Popsicle sticks (or craft sticks)

If you want to get a little artsy, get in some paint too! You could paint your popsicle sticks before building the catapult.

Download Popsicle Stick Catapult Printable

How to Make a Catapult with Popsicle Sticks

Follow these simple instructions to make a popsicle stick catapult:

  • Step 1: Stack 7-8 popsicle sticks (or craft sticks) on top of each other and secure them with a rubber band at each end. 
  • Step 2: Stack 2 more popsicle sticks on top of each other and secure it with a rubber band, on just one end.
  • Step 3: Pull apart these 2 popsicle sticks slightly and place the stack of 8 popsicle sticks in between.
  • Step 4: Make sure that the stack of 2 popsicle sticks is only secured to the upper stick.
  • Step 5: Place your plastic spoon on top of the upper popsicle stick and secure it with a rubber band.
  • Step 6: Take a cotton ball or pom pom, and place it on the spoon.
  • Step 7: Your homemade catapult is ready! Hold the catapult in one hand, and use your other hand to pull down your spoon to release the pom pom!

Results of the Craft Stick Catapult Experiment

Once your craft stick catapult is ready, place a pom pom or tiny plastic ball on the spoon and pull it back a bit. When you release it, the pom pom gets launched into the air and flies a certain distance before it falls.

The Science Behind the Popsicle Stick Catapult

The craft stick catapult is the perfect tool to demonstrate Newton’s laws of motion to kids. Newton’s three laws of motion state:

  1. Newton’s law of inertia states that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force. Similarly, an object  at rest stays at rest unless it’s acted upon by an external force.
  2. According to Newton’s law of force and acceleration, when an external force acts on an object, it produces an acceleration (change in velocity) in the object in the direction of the force.
  3. Newton’s third law, the law of action and reaction states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 

In this craft stick catapult experiment, when you don’t touch the catapult or move it, nothing happens. It stays in rest. But when you apply force, meaning when you pull the spoon back and let it go, the ball is flung into the air. This is because the force you exert causes the ball to overcome its inertia and is pushed into motion. The force exerted on the spoon and subsequent releasing accelerates the ball upwards as it gets launched. 

Additionally, the ball pom pom doesn’t fly in the air forever after its launched. It flies a short distance and then falls to the ground because of gravity. And once it falls on the floor, it bounces and rolls around and eventually comes to a stop. This is because of the friction of the floor. 

Other Things to Try with the Craft Stick Catapult

These catapults are a great way to boost your child’s interest in experimenting and engineering challenges. For example, they could try to place more than 1 pom pom on the spoon and see how far each of these can travel as they launch them. Or, they could move the plastic spoon in such a way that the pom pom travels farther away. Check out more fun engineering projects for kids to challenge their minds and boost their STEM learning.

We hope our little popsicle stick catapult experiment teaches kids how to build a catapult (while learning core Physics concepts!) with ease. Some physics concepts they will learn are:

  • How every action has an equal and opposite reaction
  • Acceleration (due to pressure or force applied on an object)
  • Motion
  • Gravity (when the pom pom doesn’t stay in the air for a long time and eventually falls to the ground)

If you’re looking for a digital-physical physics game for kids, check out Osmo’s Newton.

YouTube video

For more fun science experiments and kids learning games, check the rest of our website.

More Designs for Homemade Catapults

  • Instead of using a spoon, you could use a bottle cap! For this, you’d just need a hot glue gun to stick the bottle cap to your popsicle stick. It would appear that the catapult shoots higher with a bottle cap than with a spoon. (but not farther)
  • Here’s another alternative to a spoon catapult. For this experiment, you’d need a binder clip, hot glue, popsicle sticks, and a bottle cap. First, form a triangle with 3 popsicle sticks and glue them together. Right in the middle of your triangle, glue another popsicle stick. Next, take your binder clip and place it at the end of this stick. Then, glue another popsicle stick at the top of the binder clip. Finally, glue your bottle cap to the “launching” part of that popsicle stick. You’ve got yet another effective homemade catapult! Put some pressure on the bottle cap and there, you have it.

Frequently Asked Questions on Popsicle Stick Catapult: Science Project Ideas for Kids

What are the materials required for Popsicle Stick Catapult: Science Project Ideas for Kids?

The materials required for Popsicle Stick Catapult: Science Project Ideas for Kids are crafting sticks or popsicle sticks, spoons (preferably eco friendly), cotton balls or pom poms and bands.

What do Popsicle Stick Catapult: Science Project Ideas for Kids teach?

Popsicle Stick Catapult: Science Project Ideas for Kids teach them a few important concepts of physics like, motion, acceleration, gravity and Newton’s laws of motion.