Simple Catapults - from Sling Shots to Desktop Models

Simple catapults have existed since ancient times when it first occurred to man to create a device to assist in the hurling of an object a greater distance than humans alone could muster.

This breakthrough helped man not only to hunt prey for food, but later assisted him in toppling fortified castle walls.

Technically, simple catapults are any device that assists in the propulsion of an object through the air. Even a basic slingshot, using a piece of leather, sinew, or a more modernized rubber band works on the same principle as that behind simple catapults.

The first appearance of these simple machines on the battlefield perhaps occurred in the 300s AD when Phillip of Macedonia, father of renowned Alexander the Great, had a machine created to launch spears at the enemy.

Phillip’s engineers created a simple catapult, which became known as the ballista. This device was similar in concept to a crossbow and used torsion from tightly wound ropes to create the force necessary to launch deadly missiles at an enemy.

As time passed, catapults become more and more complex and even more deadly. The beneficiary of the design of the simple catapults, the trebuchet, has been reported to have the ability to hurl objects weighing 300 pounds into enemy installments. The basic design principle behind simple catapults is still used today. For example, aircraft launchers in military settings.

Designs for simple catapults range in variety from those meant to create life-size replicas of the historic weapons of war to those that result in fantastic school projects. Whatever the actual model size, the basic construction process helps illustrate in a hands-on way lessons of both history and physical science.

All that’s necessary to create a hand-held catapult that operates on the same principles the great weapons of siege warfare are a few commonly found household items. For example, a spoon, some sticks, even the garden Popsicle variety will work, tape, wire and a flexible plastic strip.

The basic materials are fashioned together with two longer sticks and two shorter ones acting as the frame. The sticks are taped together and the piece of plastic is taped to one of the short sticks.

The spoon itself is used as the “launching” cup. The wire is used to fasten the spoon. As far as simple catapults go, this one can be created in short time and can offer a great lesson for students and adults alike for a very modest supply cost.

Plans for simple catapults are readily available on the Internet and within books that can be found in local libraries or online. Models range in size from full scale to tiny versions made of toothpicks.

Whether their purpose was for hunting or warfare, simple catapults have earned a place within the history of man, enabling a person, through the application of science, to propel objects over distances. Go to the main Medieval Catapults page.

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