• 1

    Here are some of the materials you can use

    • duct tape
    • 3–5 paint stirrers (from a paint supply store or hardware store)
    • paper cup (3-oz.)
    • 1 Ping-Pong ball
    • 1 wooden block or spool
  • 2

    Prepare ahead of time

    • Have paper and pencil ready to write down ideas and sketches as you design.
    • Clear out a landing zone area. 
    • Look around for different things that use levers, such as saws, scissors, wheelbarrows, and your arm.
  • 3

    Think about the challenge

    • What is a lever? How does a lever work?
    • What are the different parts of a lever?
    • How will using a lever help you launch the ball high enough so you can catch it?
    • What force will you use to send your Ping-Pong ball flying?
    • TIP: Levers are handy tools because they can convert a small motion (for example, the flick of your foot) into a large motion (the end of the lever flinging your ball into the air).
    • TIP: A lever is not effective on its own. It needs to pivot or turn on something at a certain point in order to lift a load (such as a Ping-Pong ball) with less effort. That point is called the fulcrum. A screw on a pair of scissors is a fulcrum. 
  • 4

    Think about and write down your ideas

    • List some devices that you know that launch items into the air using a lever. (Baseball bat, catapult) 
    • List different ways you can create the force, or impact or pressure, to launch the Ping-Pong ball into the air.
    • What can you do to make your launch impressive?
    • TIP: Inventors’ and engineers’ first ideas rarely solve a problem. They brainstorm ideas, try different ideas, learn from mistakes, and try again––this is part of the design process.
  • 5

    Look at the materials

    • What materials do you have to build the different parts of your launcher?
    • What will you use to hold the Ping-Pong ball in place?
    • How will you develop the force you need to send the ball flying?
  • 6

    Design and build the launcher

    • Decide whether your launcher will sit on the table or be held in your hand. 
    • Decide how you will create the force to launch the Ping-Pong ball.
    • Choose your materials and build the pop fly launcher.
    • TIP: A launcher changes stored (potential) energy into motion (kinetic) energy. The resulting force sends the ball flying.
  • 7

    Design and attach the bucket

    • Decide how you will keep the Ping-Pong ball in place.
    • Choose the materials and build the bucket. 
    • Attach it to the launcher.
  • 8

    Ready, set, launch

    • Place the Ping-Pong ball in the bucket.
    • Launch it and let it fly!
    • TIP: If the ball doesn’t fly high enough for you to catch, try moving the location of the fulcrum.
  • 9

    Did you know?

    • Inside the Engineering
      Levers, levers, everywhere. Who doesn’t want to get more done with little effort? Baseball players use a lever every time they are up at bat. When you swing a bat, you move the part you’re holding just a little bit. But the other end of the bat moves quite a lot. The same thing happens with the flippers on pinball machines—a little flick sends the ball flying. A see-saw is a big lever, though you would need a lot of force to send someone flying! And hundreds of years ago, soldiers hurled heavy rocks using catapults, which use a lever system to send them flying. 
  • 10

    Try this next!

    • Increase the number of balls you launch. Redesign your launcher so it can send two balls in the air at the same time.
    • Play a launch and catch game. Set up a target in your landing zone and challenge a friend to a launch and catch game.
    • Think big.  Make a supersize pop fly launcher.