Teaching Resources

Lesson Plans: Trebuchets

Turning and Flinging: Simple Machines in the Classroom

By Jarred Araujo, Jenna Hiller and Andrew Hyde

Paper published online by Western Michigan University (2006)

Abstract: Students enrolled in a multidisciplinary service learning engineering design course work in groups to make working prototypes of hands-on experiments in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas for K-12 teachers. The module to be discussed addresses the topic of “simple machines,” geared for a 3 rd -grade classroom but adaptable to other age groups. The student-designed materials involve plastic gears used on separate platforms designed to allow the young students to place and move components in specified or experimental locations. Students could change the positions and relationships of the components to have variety of outcomes. As a starting point, two to five different configurations would be used by the 3 rd -graders to become familiar with how the various machine components work. Then, the students would be free to innovate the gear arrangement as they wished. An additional project involved the use of catapults. Students were given a list of materials to build one, develop the idea of the lever. This lesson was meant to be inquiry-based such that children would be free to ask questions and use their own creativity to build their catapult. A competition of accuracy was be implemented to increase motivation. Students in the class were asked for oral and written responses to observational questions throughout the process. The lesson was evaluated by having students link the scientific method and knowledge of simple machines to their design processes and stating their results. The classroom trials proved successful but there were several flaws such as the need for more time, to keep their attention, for a visual aid or example demonstration.

Click here to read this article from Western Michigan University

Trebuchet – Design, Build, Test, Compete

Lesson Plan by David McNeich

For Grades 3-5

Overview: In this lesson the students will design, construct and test trebuchets to ultimately compete for bragging rights and possibly a prize. The focus of this activity is for the students to be able to work as a group with each individual having a unique set of responsibilities. The students will investigate forces and motion.

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Trebuchet Toss

Lesson Plan by

For High School students

Overview: This lesson focuses on trebuchet design. Teams of students construct trebuchets from everyday materials. They then test their trebuchets to determine the farthest distance they can hit a target with a marshmallow projectile.

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Secrets of Lost Empires II — Medieval Siege

From the PBS program NOVA: England’s Edward I is said to have used a fearsome machine, called “Warwolf,” to batter his enemies’ castle walls into rubble. Historians think Warwolf was a wooden trebuchet, a missile-throwing siege weapon that dominated siege warfare until cannons were invented. In the Scottish countryside, teams build two trebuchet designs side by side, using medieval building techniques. Will either, or both, be capable of destroying a model castle wall at a distance of 200 yards (182 meters)?

Click here to read the Teacher’s Resources section from NOVA

Click here to read ‘Energy Transfer in a Trebuchet’ Lesson Plan

Catapults and Trebuchets

Lesson Plan by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute

For Grade 6 students

Summary: The students will learn about catapults and trebuchets, the type of energy and simple machines they use to propel projectiles. The students will also be given an engineering design task and the opportunity to complete the engineering design process.

Click here to read this lesson plan from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Trebuchet Attack: A Game of Simple Physics and Mathematical Relationships for Primary School Children

By David Beaudoin (2009)

Introduction: Trebuchet Attack serves just this purpose by allowing students to experience the raw power of physics and mechanics in a simple and understandable manner. Learning the mechanics behind a trebuchet is no different than learning the mechanics of other simple machines, but provides a much more rich illustration of the potential that simple machines have to alter the world around them. Trebuchets served as one of the most powerful siege weapons for nearly 1500 years and were only displaced by the advent of gunpowder. The relationship between the weight of the counterweight of the trebuchet and the weight of it’s projectile is easily understood and acts much like a traditional level, but on a much grander scale. Most importantly, Trebuchet Attack introduces the basic mechanics and relationships between mass, weight, velocity and distance, laying the groundwork for a wide range of future technical learning and investigation.

Click here to read this article from Michigan State University

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