The Museum is currently closed for general admission

Now accepting reservations for private Small Group Visits starting in May 2021

Small Group Visits


< Back to VDM @ Home

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see new activities daily. Questions? Contact Education Manager Megan Smead at

  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Rubber Bands
  • Plastic Spoon
  • Cotton Balls

Scroll through the slideshow above for a visual of each step.

  1. Use two rubber bands to attach a plastic spoon to a popsicle stick.
  2. Use another rubber band to attach the bottom of another popsicle stick to your spoon-stick combo.
  3. Stack five popsicle sticks together using a rubber band at each end.
  4. Slide the stack of popsicle sticks in between the spoon-stick combo and the other popsicle stick.
  5. Place your catapult on the floor and load a cotton ball on the spoon.
  6. Hold the catapult in place using the stack of sticks, push down gently on the spoon, and then quickly let go of the spoon to launch the cotton ball!

The Science Behind Catapults

Your catapult is a type of simple machine called a lever. Simple machines make our lives easier by helping us use less energy to do the same amount of work. A lever helps you move a load (the cotton ball) around a fulcrum (the stack of popsicle sticks) to increase the distance it can travel.

Further Experimentation:

  • Increase Distance: How can you make the cotton ball fly farther? What happens if you change the force you apply to the spoon? What happens if you move the bundle of popsicle sticks?
  • Try Other Objects: Which will fly farther: a cotton ball or a penny? Why do you think that?
  • Test Your Aim: Can you hit a target with your catapult? Put a bowl across the room and see if you can catapult your cotton balls into it.

Support the Museum

The Virginia Discovery Museum is a vital nonprofit community resource but has remained closed for in-person visits since March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consider a donation to support us during this uncertain time. Donate Now