Students team up for catapult competition

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It was a test of accuracy, distance and creativity during the spring catapult competition at Front Range Community College in Westminster.

FRCC physics students teamed up with second-graders from STEM Magnet Lab School in Northglenn and the STEM Launch School in Thornton for a 12-week catapult project culminating with the students going head-to-head on April 26 using baseballs as the catapult payload.

“We always do a pumpkins catapult competition in the fall, so I decided I wanted something for my spring students so I came up with baseballs since it’s baseball season,” said Clara Wente in the science department at FRCC.

“And this year we decided to team with the second-graders so the students could mentor them while earning extra

credit.”

FRCC students volunteered their time to work with the young students for two hours a week for 12 weeks.

Over that time period, the college students worked with their team members to develop a catapult giving the second graders a hands-on physics lesson.

When it came time to compete, the teams put their designs the test and were judged on how far they could launch the baseball, how accurate they were on aiming the ball into a net and the theme of their uniforms.

For FRCC student Zach Lamb the choice to help with this project was an

easy one.

“I already volunteer at Federal Heights Elementary so I like helping out kids,” he said.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and the best part is seeing them learn new things.”

Second-grade teacher Allison Silvaggio at STEM Magnet said it’s been amazing to watch her students learn so much more about physics than the typical second grade standards.

Admitting she’s not a physics expert, Silvaggio said it’s been a privilege to have college students with so much knowledge and excitement spend time mentoring her students.

“The students learned about potential and kinetic energy and a lot of technology and math skills too, which was great,” she said.

“And during the design process of the catapults the student learned that not every design will be successful, which teaches them that failure is a step to success.”