Teachers aim for catapult lesson to be more than fling

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Washington Township — What happens when you tape Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, straws and a plastic spoon together?

You can launch marshmallows! That’s what sixth-graders at Powell Middle School discovered Tuesday in their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) class.

The students participated in an activity called “The Catapult Challenge” led by Robert G. Tonti, a STEM outreach coordinator at Macomb Community College.

Tonti said he visits schools across Metro Detroit hosting STEM-related hands-on projects. The students at Powell were charged with teaming up and using the provided materials to build a catapult that would launch a marshmallow into a cardboard box about 61/2 feet away.

“They have to use their imagination and work as a team,” Tonti said.

Tonti gave the students two days to complete the challenge, using one day to plan and build and the second day to test and make modifications to their product.

For some groups, it took a few attempts to create a catapult that would work. Student Ariana Krstevski said she worked with her partner to fix their catapult after the first one didn’t launch.

“We are learning teamwork and how to do things together,” Ariana said. “It’s been kind of difficult.”

STEM teacher Carrie Brunner said activities like this are meant to encourage students to consider careers in STEM.

“That’s where all the jobs are going to be in the future,” Brunner said. “Technology is advancing so fast.”


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