Trebuchet Physics Project

By Michaela Unrue and Brooke-Ellynne Waters

Fall is a season full of people scurrying around worrying about all of the different holidays. Everyone is so worried about preparing for their special get togethers that they never really notice the beauty of education.

In Mr. Bender’s physics class, the specialty is not beauty; it is physics. This class is not the usual pencil and paper class. He encourages his students to use hands-on techniques to delve deeper into their knowledge of physics. “I think my students can learn more effectively with their hands performing a task rather than jotting down notes and possibly doodling on the side of papers,” stated Mr. Bender.

One example of this hands-on philosophy is when the class recently created an ancient Chinese catapult called a trebuchet. The purpose of the trebuchet is to demonstrate the motion of projectile, velocity, and acceleration. The students were able to make a trebuchet out of popsicle sticks.

The scientific and mathematical background of the trebuchet was explained by Mr. Bender, “One of the techniques the students had to use was mechanics. They had to be able to understand the conversion, lengths of the actual trebuchet, and working with gravity,” he said. “The main goal with the trebuchet is to use complex equations that we learned and put them into work with our trebuchet.”

Certain changes occured with the trebuchets in order to enhance their capabilities. The students were able to work in groups of two or three to increase the likeliness of the success of their  project.  “I learned how to use certain measurements and to maximize the trebuchet’s velocity. We used certain ratios and equations, such as the Pythagorean theorem, because our trebuchet is in a right triangle. The easiest thing about the trebuchet is just the structure, but the hardest part was the weights and the swing arm,” explained senior Matt Mcmillen.


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