Put those engineering skills to work with this classic STEM activity with a fun and sweet Halloween twist! Candy Catapult is a MUST DO activity this October. It is a fantastic STEM project for kids. Not only do they engineer and construct their catapults, but then they can work to understand the physics to fine tune the aiming and get that candy in the pumpkin or cauldron. Candy Catapults make a fun Halloween Party Game too!
Halloween STEM Catapult
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Halloween is always an exciting time around here. My kids LOVE it! Every year we celebrate with 31 Days of Halloween Activities. This year we built a Candy Catapult and created a fun Halloween Game using candy.
After the incredible success we had building our first popsicle stick catapult, the kids were anxious to build more. That’s the great thing about incorporating STEM into your child’s education, they love to take ownership of their learning and chase those passion projects!
But simply building another catapult was not enough. So we turned it into a fascinating game that had the kids exploring physics, math as well as engineering.
This Halloween Game can be played so easily by almost any age (younger kids will require help with the engineering of their catapults). The best part is that it can also be done as part of a virtual party or learning session too.
If playing this game virtually, have the kids gather their supplies and build the candy catapults. Then have them measure out the distance between their catapult and their targets (the cauldrons and pumpkins). This ensures everyone is facing equal challenges.
To play the game, see how many shots it takes to get the candy into the target! Or assign each target a point value and see who can get the most points.
Tip! Have the kids shoot the same type of candy to ensure a fair game.
Building a Halloween Candy Catapult
Jumbo craft sticks (in Halloween colours – optional)
Mini Cauldrons and Pumpkins
Candy (small like candy corn, marshmallows, or other little treats are best)
Alternative ideas – instead of candy you can toss little spiders or plastic eyeballs or mini pumpkins
Here is a video of our Candy Catapult in action, including putting together the Catapult. I find this visual helps lots of people through the steps.
To start engineering your catapult, stack eight craft sticks together, one on top of the other and wrap elastics around the ends to hold them together. This helps create some additional stability and strength. This stack is going to be your fulcrum.
Take a single craft stick and place it perpendicular to the stack on the bottom, start by setting the fulcrum about a quarter of the way up the single stick. For extra stability you can slide the popsicle stick between the last stick in the fulcrum, so it is sandwiched in.
Add a second single stick on top of the fulcrum, also perpendicular to the stack so that it lines up with the bottom stick. Attach the two sticks with a rubber band on the end so you create a V shape.
You can secure the V to the fulcrum using another rubber band in a figure 8 pattern. This is completely optional. We prefer not to do this so we can easily adjust our designs to get the most power, however, if you have younger kids the stability and structure will make it easier for them to use.
On the opposite end from the rubber band attaching the two sticks, on the top of the catapult, glue on the bottle cap. Ensure you leave a little bit of room at the end for your fingers to push down to launch.
You made a catapult!
Need more tips and ideas for building your Candy Catapult? Check out our original Catapult project for lots of tips and cool tricks!
Setting Up The Candy Catapult Game Challenge
Set up your game space on a table where you have lots of room. Candy is going to go flying!
Then set up your cauldrons and pumpkins for the targets.
Provide your child with lots of candy (because we know snacking is GOING to happen!). Now challenge them to shoot the candy into the targets.
You can assign the targets point values if you wish.
Have the kids trouble shoot and figure out how to hit as many targets as possible. This involves studying and understanding the physics of the launches in order to increase your accuracy.
Try different types of candy and study how it changes the results. We found it really changed things!
The STEM Challenge
Building catapults is a design and engineering challenge. So challenge your kids to vary their designs so you can evaluate how it affects the effectiveness and power of the final design. Make sure they develop a hypothesis and test out their theories by measuring and recording their results.
Some variations to consider:
- Have the kids vary how far they set their perpendicular sticks up the stack.
- Consider changing the height of the stack to see how that affects the results.
- Glue another craft stick onto your top launching stick to make it longer before adding the bottle cap.
Encourage your kids to come up with other design alterations and get creative!
Halloween STEM Activity Lessons
Catapults are a timeless and ever popular activity for a reason. They are fun, but they also teach some wonderful STEM lessons.
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
In this Halloween STEM activity we are hitting three pillars of STEM: Science (Physics), Engineering and Math. And like most STEM activities, this project can be easily adapted to a variety of ages. Plus, who doesn’t love playing with candy, especially at Halloween?
Kids will learn engineering skills as they construct and build their catapults. Encourage them to get creative and try different designs. See if they can discover ways to make the designs more stable, or launch farther, or with more accuracy.
This Halloween Game is great for learning some basic math skills. Assign points to the targets and have the kids add up their scores. For older kids have them work out their accuracy rates based on how far the targets are moved away from the catapult. Simply use a tape measure to see how far their catapult launches their candy.
Science (specifically physics)
Catapults are a great way to explore physics.
An object at rest stays at rest until a force is applied, and an object will stay in motion until something creates an imbalance in the motion. Every action causes a reaction.ISAAC NEWTON
When we pull down on the catapult we are building up potential energy or tension. You can feel it wanting to GO! When we made our Halloween Candy Catapult you can feel the potential energy as it really wants to launch that candy when you pull it down. Kids will need to use a helper hand on the bottom to hold it stable.
Release the catapult and all of that potential energy changes to kinetic energy and your candy goes flying! But there is one more thing at work here, and that’s gravity which causes the candy to move in an arc, eventually falling (hopefully!) into a cauldron or pumpkin target.
Older kids can dig deeper with our catapult project learning more advanced physics. Discuss concepts such as fulcrum, force, stored (potential) energy, kinetic energy, payload and even the angle of the launch platform to see which angle provides the best flight of a projectile. Students can study the work of Galileo on parabola, the relationship between the horizontal and vertical trajectory when a projectile is launched. Projectile motion is a fascinating study that you can dig into more here.
Incorporate the Scientific Method with your Catapult project. Have students make predictions, research, design, build, test, record results and evaluate. Learn more about applying the Scientific Method with this resource.
The best part is that you will have a steady supply of candy to keep them excited about learning STEM with our Halloween Candy Catapult!
Looking for even more Amazing Halloween Activities? Check out our 31 Days of Halloween Activities!
Have an amazing Halloween!