Launch into the New Year with Catapult and Creative Writing Challenges

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator

This January Teays Valley elementary students learned about catapults and the engineering design process which involves problem-solving and building solutions through teamwork, designing, prototyping, testing, rebuilding, and continuing to improve and reevaluate their design solutions.


Students learned the basic catapult design concepts and components. They learned about force, accuracy, precision, and angles – and made engineering connections – engineers apply science, writing, and math concepts early into the design process and prototyping before they’re ready to build final products to meet their clients’ needs.

They also learned how force affects the motion of a projectile, the difference between accuracy and precision, as well as learned the optimum angle for launching a projectile at the farthest distance, being at 45 degrees.

Catapults may be an old technology, but engineers still apply many design concepts to modern applications that need to store potential energy to propel a payload. Examples such as clay pigeon shooting or more complex aircraft catapult take-off for short runways.

Our catapult project was a two-part challenge: 1) apply the engineering design process to build a catapult, and 2) use the catapults in a creative writing challenge. The students worked in groups moving through target stations.

They used their catapults to hit a dynamic target that gave them points, letters, words, and images. The students had to add up their points, look up new vocabulary with the acquired letters, add the words and phrases collected, and finally handwrite a group creative writing narrative that they read out loud to their peers.

Skills Applied:

  • Engineering concepts
  • Geometry/Angles
  • Visual Motor
  • Bimanual
  • Math/Addition
  • Alphabetization
  • Handwriting
  • Creative Thinking/Storytelling
  • Team Communication
  • Oral Presentation

*Pictures from Teays Valley Elementary Students registered for the 2023 STEM Club Program.

ArtBot Robot & Holiday Card Design Challenge

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator

What is cooler than a Robot that makes art? Humanizing and retooling robotic art into a personalized holiday card. 

Our young elementary STEMists at Teays Valley Local Schools have been learning about electricity, simple circuits, elements, batteries, electrons, and atoms, and how they work together in electrical and robotic systems.

This winter’s design challenge taught students how to build a simple circuit robot called, ArtBot, which connected a simple motor to a single circuit system that vibrated to create geometric art.

This is an entry-level project that explores terms and concepts of a: robot, moto, battery, circuit, and vibration. It also allowed students to work through the engineering design process and adjust certain variables in the design to change the center of gravity that impacted the geometric art design the robot produced.

Supplies per student included: AA batteries (2), AA battery holder with positive and negative wires (1), 3-volt DC motor (1), cork (1), electrical tape, double-sided tape, hobby knife, scissors, plastic cup (1), popsicle stick (1), washable markers (3), a large paper sheet, and an optional lab notebook for design, reflection, observations, and googly eyes or facial stickers to personalize robot. A short how-to video was used to give the students an idea of construction methods.

The second creative challenge came from using a piece of robotic art in making a holiday greeting card. Additional paper, glue sticks, stamps, and paper cutters were provided to allow students to get creative and personalize their cards.

A great design-build art project to end the year. More to come in 2023!