Catapults and Robots in the Classroom

Christina Morris was looking for something different to work on with her sixth grade students at Cleveland Elementary School. She decided to allow her students to vote on a set of science standards they would be most interested in. The students chose engineering. With the field of engineering as the basis, her students worked with programmable sphero robots and catapults, providing the opportunity to combine math and science, and see the application of math and science in a hands-on activity. Mrs. Morris enlisted her husband, an engineer, to help build catapults for the students to use.

The catapult activity gave students the opportunity to test different variables of the catapult, collect data, analyze the results, and determine where to place a target for the most accurate and precise location. The sphero provided Mrs. Morris’ class the chance to work with coding for the first time, when they programmed the device to maneuver a maze. Before they were allowed to go through the maze, they had to test their sphero to determine the relationship of distance, speed, time, and then use ratios to determine the actual size of the maze.

As the class began to prepare for using the sphero robots and catapults, the students became actively engaged and excited about the project. The exercise provided a great experience for the students to learn teamwork skills, as students were challenged to think collaboratively, and bounce ideas off one another. Although the students were not necessarily surprised by the outcomes, the project did show the importance of testing and documentation, and the impact of variables on the end result.

Mrs. Morris plans on making more catapults for next year and will be attending coding training later this month. She is excited to learn more about how she can utilize these kinds of projects in the classroom.