Design Challenge: Crazy Catapults!

Your challenge will be to join MechSE in creating a medieval-style catapult. Who will be able to build the best launcher?!

Introduction to the challenge

Prompts and questions to ask the students

  • What is a machine?
  • What are simple machines? Can you name different types of simple machines and where they are used?
    • Lever – crowbar
    • Pulley – Well / elevator
  • Have you watched any medieval movies like Troy? What are some weapons used by the soldiers?
  • Which ones are the long-range weapons? Bow and arrow and CATAPULTS!

Videos to watch before the challenge  


Your Mission

You are an engineer who specializes in designing cool toys and machines for games. You were recently contacted by the SuperFun Toy Company to help design a machine called a catapult for a game that will launch Ping-Pong balls at a series of targets. To ensure that children and adults alike will love the game, you need to make sure the catapult is both accurate and precise.


The only building materials available to you are listed below.

  • Popsicle sticks
  • Masking tape
  • Straws
  • Rubber bands
  • Plastic Spoons
  • Cardboard base (1/group)

Engineering Design Process

Step #1: Imagine – Brainstorm several ideas you have for how to use the above materials in your catapult. Draw pictures!

Step #2: Design – Draw out your group’s best catapult design. Be sure to label where you will use all of the different materials (Popsicle sticks, tape, plastic spoon, etc.)

Step #3: Test – How well did your catapult work?  What are two ways you can change your catapult to make it better? List these ideas, and then start over at Step #1.


  • What worked? Why? What challenges did you face?
  • How can these concepts be applied somewhere else?
  • How is your design unique?
  • How and when do you see these concepts in day-to-day life?
  • Where can you apply these concepts to improve something you are doing?
  • What other materials could have been used? Will they work? Too heavy, too flimsy, etc.
  • Note: Take photos and explanations from students. Ask them to make posters/ diagrams etc to explain what they learned


Go to the Feedback Survey to tell us what you learned and what you want to know more about.