story by Abby Beauregard, Becca Spilka, and Jamie Gilbert-Fitzpatrick

From The A-Team to Neon Ninjas, groups of Physics students storm the football field for the annual catapult launch.  Groups of students line up side by side at the starting line, ready to launch their softballs 50 yards across the field.

“It was very hectic. There was so much going on at once that it was hard for me to focus on the launches,” science teacher Andrea Jurgens said.

Students, teachers and parents swarmed the football field as they patiently awaited the first launch of the day.  The real kicker? All of the students were dressed in costumes, ranging from Powerpuff Girls to grapes to construction workers, based on their catapult’s theme.

“The most exciting part about the launch was seeing everyone’s outfits.  There were so many creative and cute outfits.  They were really creative with everything, especially how they designed and decorated their catapults,” senior Shantell Witherspoon said.

The creativity of the project masks the hard work and countless hours students put into not only building the catapult but making sure it works.

“[Building the catapult] was a design process that I kind of sketched out, figuring out the sizes and what we needed to purchase. There was also a research process to find what design would work best,” senior Garrett Dell said.

However, sketching was the easy part. In practice, the project required much more problem-solving and labor as things went wrong. Again and again and again.

“The most exciting part about building the catapult was getting to know the workers at Home Depot because we constantly needed help,” senior Breyana Nesbitt said.

Different parts of the catapult were more difficult to build than others, making attention to dimensions and detail a crucial part of the building process.

“We faced difficulties building it such as the swing arm.  Ours was too short so we had to replace it with a longer arm.  Then we were using rope for our catapult as the axle for the swing arm, but we later replaced that with a broomstick as the axle for the swing arm,” Shantell said.

Even after all the students’ hard work, there was no guarantee it would pay off on the day of the launch, reaching the required fifty yards.

“I didn’t meet my expectations because our swing arm wasn’t as long as it should have been and overall our catapult was too small.  We should have had better bungee cords, to launch the softball a longer distance,” Shantell said.

Despite shortcomings, students still enjoyed the process of building the catapult and watching everyone’s projects on launch day.

“I thought it was a great day. A bunch of people had great designs, and it was great to see all the different catapults and which ones worked best,” Garrett said.

Students not only benefit from the project grade but also acquired skills such as time management, cooperation with others and basic engineering skills.

“It’s beneficial because it makes students learn to work in a cooperative manner and to use their time wisely,” Jurgens said. “Also, this is what my engineers will be doing in the future. They’ll be building machines to benefit humankind.”