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Pom Pom Catapult

Make this simple pom-pom catapult – then think, tweak, test and refine to improve the design.

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How does it work?

Catapults work by converting energy from one type to another and transferring this from object to object.

This simple pom-pom catapult uses elastic potential energy stored in a wooden stick as you bend it. When you let go, this stored energy is released, converted into kinetic energy. The kinetic energy is transferred to the missile (the launched pom-pom!), which then flies through the air.


What you’ll need

  • 6 or more pop-sticks
  • 5 or more elastic bands
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • A pom-pom or ball of paper.


What you’ll do

  • Stack 4 or more pop-sticks together and join them with an elastic band at each end.
  • Take 2 more pop-sticks and join them together at one end, creating a ‘V’ shape.
  • Place the 2 pop-sticks on top of the 4 stacked pop-sticks, like a plus sign.
  • Strengthen the centre of your catapult using an elastic band to hold the pop-sticks in place.
  • Attach a spoon to the top pop-stick to hold your pom-pom projectile.
  • Place the pom-pom in the spoon, pull it back, and watch it fly!


Refine your design

Now it’s time to tinker and try to refine the design.

  • Try moving the 4 pop-sticks closer to the end.
  • Add more pop-sticks to the stack of 4.
  • Make the pop-stick holding the spoon longer.
  • What works best? What happened to the pompom? Did it fly? Did it go high or low? Where did it land?
  • You can also set up targets such as a group of cups to test accuracy as well as distance.


For an extra challenge

  • What do you expect will happen when you push the projectile farther down? Will this make it fly higher, farther, both? Will it take the same path and go faster?
  • Does your pom-pom land farther or nearer when you push a lot compared to a little?
  • In which scenario did you have to exert more effort/work? When you pushed a little or a lot?
  • Did you get similar results with each variation? Is what you observed what you expected?
    Can you explain why?
  • How did your changes affect the pom-pom’s flight path?


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