The best part about making catapults: if you keep doing it you get really good at it. You start one day by asking how to make a simple catapult, and before you know it, you’ve got your own collection. The following method provides plenty of tension in the launch arm for superior launching power. Plus, the soda cans provide a heavy base for added durability. The design is fun and easy, and it only takes five or ten minutes to make.
like rubber grapes
or tinfoil balls
shoot best with
- two 12 ounce soda pop cans (unopened)
- kitchen fork
- ten rubber bands (standard 3.5″ x 1/4″ size is optimal)
- cap from a plastic 2-liter bottle
-two pencils (equal length)
What to Do:
Watch YouTube video or follow the instructs below:
1. Place two soda cans next to each other–one standing up and one on its side. (figure 1)
2. Secure the cans in this position with two rubber bands: stretch one around the upper portion of the standing can and wrap it around the lower portion of the bottom can. Stretch the other around the upper portion of the standing can and wrap it around the upper portion of the bottom can. (figure 2 and 3)
3. Repeat step two.
4. Turn the standing can toward you. Insert a fork beneath the belt of rubber bands. The bottom side of the fork should be pressed against the surface of the can. (figure 4)
5. Make sure the belt of rubber bands are pushed to the upper part of the fork prongs to make room for the next step. (also figure 4)
6. Loop a rubber band between the last two left fork prongs and wrap it around the nearest (left) end of the bottom can. (figure 5 and 6)
7. Now loop a rubber band between the last two right fork prongs and wrap it around the nearest (right) end of the bottom can. (figure 5 and 6)
8. Push the fork and rubber bands to the top third portion of the can. (figure 7)
9. Create the catapult launch cup by attaching the cap (from a plastic 2-liter bottle) to the upper portion of the fork handle. Do not attach the cap to the very tip of the handle–leave approximately 3/4 inch free. Attach the cap by placing it against the handle and wrapping it with masking tape. Be sure to press the tape into the bottom of the cup as you loop around, so that the cup maintains its cavity. Make sure cap is securely in place. (figure 8 and 9)
10. Rubber band two pencils together (pencils should be equal length). Do this with two rubber bands–one left of center and one right of center. Do not over-fasten the pencils together. (figure 10)
11. Create the arc stop: Insert the fork prongs between the two pencils and slide the pencils approximately half way up the fork prongs. (figure 11)
12. Repeat steps 6 and 7 to secure the arc stop. (After using the catapult a few times, adjust the pencils up or down to achieve optimal arc.)
13. Your catapult is now complete. (figure 12)
How to Launch Objects:
Place object in launch cup, pull arm back and release.
Objects to Launch:
Cotton balls, Q-Tip tops, cut up sponge pieces, miniature marshmallows, dry beans, styrofoam balls, corks.
Games to Play:
-Set a bucket five or ten feet away from your catapult and see how many tries it takes to launch ten items into the bucket. The next player does the same thing. The player who requires the least amount of attempts is the winner.
-Each player launches five objects toward the base of a wall. Score a point for the three items that land closest to the wall. Play again. First player to reach fifteen points wins.
-One player launches three items and tries to land them as close together as possible. The next player does the same thing. The player whose items land closest together wins. (Note that the three items form a triangle; if necessary, measure the perimeter of each triangle to determine the winner.)
-Complete list of games: Catapult Games for Kids
The soda can catapult design for kids is sturdy, fun, and simple. You can build it in just a few minutes using everyday household items. If your interested in long term use, consider wrapping the cans in masking tape (before you begin assembly) in order to prevent puncturing. Overall, the design has several unique advantages:
- The bend of the fork tip provides a built-in fulcrum
- The tilt of the front can provides an ideal angle for the launch arm
- The two pencils that form the arc-stop allow you to adjust the angle of trajectory (45 degrees is optimal)
Best of luck–have fun with your new catapult!