Launch Lab

Presented by: Illinois Math and Science Academy

With the (rescheduled) 2020 Summer Olympics just around the corner, IMSA wants kids to explore some of the underlying kinematic physics of the various summer Olympic sports. Launch Lab gives students a chance to design, build, and test their own catapults!! Along the way, students can explore how to optimize their catapult’s functionality by evaluating factors that affect the motion of their projectile, and make any necessary modifications to the design of their catapult. Come build and play with us and see if you can "take home the gold!" by creating the most accurate, the strongest, and/or coolest catapult ever!

Materials List

These are the materials you will need to follow along with this activity.

  • Materials that can be used as the lever of the catapult (popsicle sticks, plastic spoons/forks, rulers, etc.)
  • Materials that can be used as the fulcrum of the catapult (books, condiment cups, cereal boxes)
  • Tape (duct or masking)
  • Meter stick or other similar measuring device
  • Scissors
  • Small launchable items (craft poms, cotton balls, goldfish crackers, small candies, etc.)
  • Target (plastic cups, paper with concentric circles, tape to mark on the wall and/or floor, etc.)
  • Rubber bands (optional)

Safety Considerations

Use materials only as directed; use care and caution when using scissors or any sharp object while building; do not aim or launch projectiles toward people, pets, fragile items, and/or windows. This activity should be supervised by an adult.

About Illinois Math and Science Academy

IMSA - Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Ranked the #1 public high school in Illinois and #2 in the U.S. by, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® (IMSA) develops creative, ethical leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As a teaching and learning laboratory created by the State of Illinois, IMSA enrolls academically talented Illinois students (grades 10-12) in its advanced residential academic program. Graduates are leaders in the business, education, scientific, and civic sectors.

IMSA provides summer enrichment programs (virtual and in person for students rising into grades 3-10. Read more on IMSA programs.