- Simple Machines
The Invention Challenge
Invent a device that launches a spoonful of confetti into the air. The bigger the cloud, the better.
Materials (per pair)
- paper confetti
- 1 straw
- 2 sheets of cardboard (approx. 8.5 x 11 in.)
- duct tape
- 1 wooden spool
- 4 paint stirrers
- 4 rubber bands
- 2 8-oz. paper cups
- 2 4-oz. paper cups
Brainstorm and Design
To help you brainstorm, look at the materials, discuss the questions below, and sketch some design ideas.
- Name some devices that launch objects into the air.
- How do these devices launch things?
- Look at the materials. What can you use to launch confetti into the air?
- Will my launcher sit on the ground or will it be handheld?
- How will I load the confetti?
OK, show time! Lots of possibilities here. Slingshots, catapults, and levers can all send confetti flying.
Test, Evaluate, and Redesign
Does the confetti burst out in the shape you want? Is it as high or wide or fluttery as you had hoped? If not, how can you change it? HINT: A launcher changes stored (potential) energy into motion (kinetic) energy. The resulting force sends confetti flying.
Discuss What Happened
To learn about an idea's strengths and weaknesses, inventors build a series of early designs called prototypes. How would you present, compare, and discuss the prototypes you built today?
- Who might use a confetti launcher?
- How does your launcher develop enough force to launch confetti?
- Which design launched the biggest cloud of confetti? How did that design generate its force?
- How could you change your launcher's design to launch confetti made from something other than paper bits? For example, streamers, corkscrew confetti that twirls down like a helicopter, mini-parachutes, fake money, dried flower petals, fake snow, and foam peanuts.