Tinker Toy Catapult Experiment

Tinker Toy CatapultLast week we made a Lego Catapult and my boys started making catapults out of everything in sight.

They made this one make out of Tinker Toys.

A Tinker Toy catapult is pretty simple construction and soon marbles were zinging across the house.

Let’s go outside!

Ryan(10) had mentioned that he had changed the angle of the arm and thought that it might work better in a different position.

I latched on to that question and decided we should do a scientific experiment to determine what angle worked the best to launch a marble down our driveway.

The round tinker toy piece that rotated around the rod that held the arm to the base had four holes in it.   One of the holes was occupied by the lower part of the arm that was attached to the rubber bands.   That left three different possible positions for the upper arm – each created a different angle.

Position 1:   The hole closest to the lower arm = 90 degree angle

Position 2:   The hole opposite the lower arm = flat arm

Position 3:   The hole underneath = 270 degrees

Tinker Toy Catapult Positions Ryan had thought that position 1 might launch the marble farther than position 2 and so we tried it out.

We drew a line of chalk so we could position the Tinker Toy Catapult in the same place for each trial.     We recorded distance for each position with a different color chalk so we could later go and measure the longest shot.

Before each launch, I asked the boys to guess what would happen.

They were excited to see if what they predicted came true.

Tinker Toy Catapult measuring distanceRyan launched a marble from each position 3 times while his brothers took turns marking the distance and fetching the wayward marble.

After the 9 trials, the boys measured the longest distance from each with a tape measure.

There was much discussion whether they should record the distance in inches, centimeters or feet and inches.

They decided to do feet and inches and then collaborated on each measurement to make sure they had it correct.

The measurements were then recorded in a chalk table I started for them on the driveway.   Reid(8) was in charge of writing down the measurements for each longest launch.Tinker Toy Catapult Measurement Table

It was good practice for him to think about how feet and inches would be noted.   He got a few extra lines here and there, but had the right idea!

Turns out position 2 easily won the contest with a longest flight of 32 feet.

Position 1 came in second with a trial of 13 feet 8 inches.

Position 3 was a total bust and actually launched the marble backwards twice.

This experiment was something very simple to construct, but think about the skills involved for the boys to participate:

  • Designing
  • Building
  • Re-designing with hopes to improve design
  • Creating a hypothesis
  • Following through on instructions
  • Repeating trials
  • Working as a team
  • Measuring
  • Recording

It just goes to show that encouraging critical thinking in kids doesn’t require elaborate plans!

You can make your very own catapults!


  1. Love this, Holly. I like how you involve learning and fun all at the same time!

  2. A now I wish I grabbed those Tinker toys at the garage sale yesterday!! Cool!

  3. Super cool! Just found your site and I am so excited to check out your creativity and share it with my boyz! YAY!

  4. What a great activity! I can not wait to try this with my kids!

  5. We experimented with a catapult we bought one time, but making one would be even more cool.

  6. This is such a cool idea! I can just see my son and his friends having a blast with this! I’ll have to gather up our old tinker toys and see what we have!

  7. That looks like a lot of fun. =D Education, too! Thank you for linking up with Give Back Thursday. 🙂

  8. love it, my boys would too! Now if I can just figure out which construction toy we could use for this, no tinker toys around here! thanks for sharing on Craft Schooling Sunday!

  9. My boys would love this. 🙂 Following from I Heart Naptime link party. Would love to have you link this up to my {wow me} wednesday link party going on right now over on my blog {if you haven ˜t already!}. Hope to see you there.


  10. Ooh this looks lots of fun and a perfect boy craft!!

    Love it! and love all the measuring your boys did!


  11. Super! Thank heavens (and you!) there are better uses for those toys (wood) that I have lined up for my toddler to play with in the near future. I just looove them but wasn’t too sure if the ‘new-age’ kids woudl be able to appreciate them.

  12. Love this. We recently did an activity with simple machines and tried to make a home made catapult but ours didn’t turn out too well. It flung our objects straight up instead of away, but it was still fun. We may have to keep experimenting until we get it right!

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