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Tee Time

On a previous Sci-ber text page, you learned how the distance from a lever's fulcrum changed mechanical advantage. Now, it is time to apply the concepts of levers and mechanical advantage. Your goal will be to engineer a catapult that uses levers to launch a golf ball!
Challenge your friends to see who can make the best catapult. The following will help you be successful.
Challenge your friends to see who can make the best catapult. The following will help you be successful.
    1. Determine which class of lever you are going to use.
    2. Calculate the mechanical advantage and determine if you can increase it. (There will be some rules to follow to make it equal.)
    3. As a challenge, see if you can get your catapult to launch the golf ball a minimum of 5 feet.
    4. How far can you make your catapult launch the golf ball?


  • Wood or other materials to make the catapult (warning PVC pipe can shatter and should not be used!)
  • Meter stick
  • Golf ball
  • Measuring tape
Safety concerns: As with all science lab activities, the most important safety rule is to follow all teacher directions.


  1. Design a catapult that does not exceed one cubic foot (12" high x 12" wide x 12" deep) in size.
  2. The lever arm may not exceed 2 feet.
  3. You may power your catapult by any mechanical means possible. (Examples of items that could be used include: rubber bands, counterbalance weight, or elastic lever arms.)
  4. The golf ball may not be touched after it is placed on the catapult.
  5. If challenging friends, the winner of the competition should be the person who can launch the golf ball the farthest and straightest.
    • One golf ball is placed on the catapult.
    • Use the catapult's launch mechanism to send your golf ball flying!
    • Use the tape measure to determine the distance the golf ball travels.


  1. Which kind of lever did you decide to use?
  2. What was the mechanical advantage of your catapult?
  3. How far were you able to launch your golf ball?
  4. What was the farthest distance that anyone was able to launch a golf ball?
  5. Which kind of lever did the winner use?

Review Science safetey rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 8th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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