Picture this: It is the Middle Ages and you and your army want to take a castle from your enemies, but the drawbridge is up and the moat is filled with alligators. How on earth can you make your enemies surrender? Why a catapult, of course! Typically, they would fling rocks to break castle walls or flaming oil to set things ablaze. (kiddle)

There are 3 basic types of catapults. Let’s learn more about them!

Ballista: It looks like a giant crossbow and was made by the Greeks to shoot sharpened logs or stone balls. This catapult was very accurate, but not very powerful.

Mangonel: This had a long wooden arm with a bucket on the end to sling things like rocks, trash to spread disease, and flaming barrels.

Trebuchet: This is the most powerful of the catapults of the Middle Ages. It has a long wooden arm with a sling at one end and a counterweight at the other. This device uses gravity to fling things a long way. (kidscbc)

Catapults use the concept of a lever to launch objects. What is a lever? A lever is a simple machine consisting of a long bar on a fulcrum (pivot) point (think, see-saw). The amount of weight needed to move the object or launch one is based on where the fulcrum is placed. For our catapult, that fulcrum would be very close to the object we are launching. (inventors of tomorrow)  

Now, let’s build our catapult so we can storm a castle!

Catapult Creation Instructions


  • 7 Popsicle/Craft Sticks

  • 4 Rubber Bands

  • 1 Bottle Cap

  • Glue

  • Soft Object to Launch (cotton ball or pom-pom)


Step 1: Stack 5 popsicle stickers on top of each other and secure each end with a rubber band.

Step 2: Stack 2 popsicle stickers on top of each other and secure one end with a rubber band.

Step 3: Pull the unwrapped end of the two popsicle sticks apart to make a V and slide the stack of 5 sticks into the V towards the wrapped end as far as it will go.

Step 4: Wrap a rubber band criss cross around both parts to secure them in place.

Step 5: Glue the lid on end of the top popsicle stick of the V and let dry.

Step 6: Place the object on the catapult and press down gently on the end of the popsicle stick and… Bombs Away!

Books on Catapults and Levers from CCPL’s Catalog

The art of the catapult by William Gurstelle

Scoop, seesaw, and raise by Michael Dahl

Levers in action by Gillian Gosman