Turn an empty tissue box into a fun catapult! This engineering challenge is a great rainy day project for kids, and great for STEM learning too.
This fun little catapult can be built in just a few minutes, and it shoots 8-10 feet! Far enough to be cool, but not enough power to hurt someone. We found this idea in Family Fun magazine several years ago and decided to build another one with the younger kids. The basic catapult design doesn’t shoot super well – look for an important tip in the instructions.
Here’s what you need to build one:
- An empty tissue box
- 3 pencils – unsharpened is best
- Rubber bands
- Hole punch
- A plastic cap
- 1 pipe cleaner
- Hot glue gun
Step 1: Start by cutting the opening of your tissue box a little larger, like this.
Step 2: Use a rubber band to attach two pencils so that they make a cross. Then use a hole punch to make holes on either side of the box. Insert the pencils. You may need to use a sharpened pencil or a pen to make the holes a little larger.
Step 3: Attach a rubber band to the end of the pencil. We used a knot like you would do on a luggage tag. We also attached two rubber bands since ours were short.
Step 4: Make a little hole on the end of the box and pull the rubber band through.
Step 5: Stick the pipe cleaner through the loop of rubber band and then tape it to secure it to the box. Otherwise, the tension on the rubber band will pull it back through! Now the catapult has rubber band power!
Step 6: Use hot glue to attach a plastic cap to the pencil.
This is what the catapult looks like when it’s just sitting there.
To shoot it, you need to pull the arm down like this:
Now if you stop here, the catapult will shoot, but since the shooting arm is pointed down toward the ground when it releases the projectile it doesn’t go very far! We added another pencil to stop the shooting arm at a better angle.
We experimented a little bit with the third pencil. Taping it directly to the box didn’t work because of the tension of the shooting arm. The best bet was to attach it to the other pencil with duct tape.
Owen had fun shooting square LEGO bricks. Yes, they are hard but they don’t launch with enough power to hurt anyone. Pom pom balls would also work, but since they are so lightweight they won’t go as far.
This picture just cracks me up!
Make it an experiment!
Test how far different projectiles travel! Have kids gather different objects to shoot, measure the results, and compare them with a graph. Try experimenting with the tension of the rubber band. Or try finding a better position for the shooting arm.
More things that shoot and launch:
- Build a Water Balloon Launcher (this is epic!)
Danya Oct 22, 2016
Love the tongue!
Sue stephenson Nov 20, 2016
We made it today! My 10 year old loves it! Thanks so much for sharing! We had great mother/son time together!
Personal Sep 2, 2017
This helped a lot when my son had an upcycling project.
Great idea and simple steps.
Concerned student Nov 14, 2017
Since you tried it how far at most and least did it go because i thought this was a delightful project to try and it has to go at least 15ft to do it for a project due by tommarow instructed by my techer.
Jackson Thiel May 30, 2018
How many rubber bands?
Fahim Firdaus Apr 15, 2020
You probably need 2 rubber bands or maybe 1 if it is big.
jenna Dec 6, 2018
how far do you think this will go with a mini marshmallow?
Max Dec 16, 2018
This seems really like a nice idea.. i gotta try it someday =]! awsome site =D!
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