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The second graders at Parmalee Elementary School have catapulted themselves — and candy pumpkins — into STEM fun.
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The students in Katie Offerman’s class learned about the mechanics of catapults before working in pairs to create catapults of their own in a STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — activity.
Offerman said about a third of the students knew what a catapult was before the lesson began, and she told them they should try for distance — to shoot the candy pumpkin — the farthest rather than the highest.
“I’m trying to push them out of their boundaries,” she explained.
Once the students created their design, they built their catapults out of sticks, cups, spoons, plastic bottle tops, string, rubber bands and tape, making changes as they went along.
Then it was time to try shooting the candy pumpkins, keeping records of the distance they flew through the air. They averaged the distances and then figured out the class average.
“How do you support the catapult so it doesn’t fall apart?” Offerman asked the students. “There needs to be some kind of support.”
Offerman said she chose a catapult for the class project because they’re fun to build and anything with pumpkins in the fall is fun. She likes the engineering aspect of the catapult-building in addition to the math and science.
When a team brought its data showing the pumpkin had moved 23, six, five and four inches, she asked them what caused the disparity and discussed the effects of force on the pumpkin’s flight.
“How can you change the release mechanism to make (the pumpkin) go farther?” she asked. “Can you come up with a way to make the trips more consistent?”
Emmy O’Connor and Ehlana Pitts worked together at a table — with therapy dog-in-training Eno taking a nap there — and Emmy explained that they were using the sticks as a base and were going to try string to tie back a spoon to allow the candy pumpkin to fly. They changed their minds and decided to use a rubber band instead of the string, hoping to create more force.
Benji Hutchens and Lucan Conlon experimented with creating the launch mechanism.
“Do we need a rubber band?” Benji asked.
“No, we don’t,” Lucan responded.
Colton Langhans and Gabe Stawski had a plan. They decided to create triangles out of sticks with the help of a glue gun operated by Offerman.
“The triangles will stand up, and we will tie string to a spoon, pull it back and fling the pumpkin," Colton explained.
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