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It’s Pumpkin Launching Time!

I know I say this all the time, but THIS challenge is our all-time favorite- it’s time for pumpkin launching.

Call it a catapult system if you like, but as you will see in my photos students have all sorts of structures for tossing those pumpkins. I learned the first time I tried this challenge that I was going to have to add several rules or guidelines.

Take a look at the rule-breakers and how kids solved this challenge by following the criteria! Let’s launch those pumpkins.

Pumpkin launching is perfect for Halloween! Students love to launch objects and this STEM activity uses pumpkin candy. Those little pumpkins are just the right size to launch through the air. Here's the good news! You can substitute with small plastic pumpkins, orange pom-poms, or even real tiny pumpkins. Even better, change this completely and use any time of year!

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So, what early problems did we encounter with pumpkin launching?

Initially, I thought I would just give students a bin of materials and they would make a device to toss tiny candy pumpkins. I was thinking about a catapult device, but students quickly made this into a sling-shot challenge.

Students created a slingshot to throw the pumpkins. We quickly changed the criteria for this activity.

This was one way to build the launcher and this one is actually okay. It followed my rule about not being hand-held. (I’ll explain that more later!)

Students kept those cups on the ground and tried to wrap rubber bands around the candy pumpkin.

This worked but we discovered that the pumpkin was getting caught in the rubber bands and not traveling very far. So, I added a material! By the way, this is something I frequently do. When students are frustrated I ask what material they might need. In this case, students needed something to hold the pumpkin.

Pumpkin launching is perfect for Halloween! Students love to launch objects and this STEM activity uses pumpkin candy. Those little pumpkins are just the right size to launch through the air. Here's the good news! You can substitute with small plastic pumpkins, orange pom-poms, or even real tiny pumpkins. Even better, change this completely and use any time of year!

The team took away the rubber bands and opted to use the spoon to propel the candy. As long as the device stayed on the ground this team was successful.

Now, let’s talk about hand-held devices.

Hand-Held Devices

Hand-held devices for tossing pumpkins are not allowed!

Rule #1- Devices cannot be hand-held. This image shows a similar device to those pictured above. But the student is holding the whole contraption aloft.

The problem is that the device is not tossing the candy. The student’s arm is helping too much.

We quickly added the rule that the device must be on the floor or tabletop. No arm action is allowed in propelling that pumpkin.

Pumpkin launching is perfect for Halloween! Students love to launch objects and this STEM activity uses pumpkin candy. Those little pumpkins are just the right size to launch through the air. Here's the good news! You can substitute with small plastic pumpkins, orange pom-poms, or even real tiny pumpkins. Even better, change this completely and use any time of year!

Here is another very similar device but it sits on the floor. The spoon launches the pumpkin. Also, notice how cleverly that spoon is inserted into the cup!

TIP – Paper cups work best for this challenge. Foam cups break too easily.

Pumpkin Launching Competitions

This is actually one of the rules of this challenge. Every team member gets a turn. Seriously. The teams build one device and they must take turns practicing and then competing.

TIP – Those candy pumpkins get mushy after a little while. Students will hold them in their warm hands and they get gooey. Get a bag of extras to replace as needed.

Perfect for Halloween! Students love to launch objects and this STEM activity uses pumpkin candy. Those little pumpkins are just the right size to launch through the air. Here's the good news! You can substitute with small plastic pumpkins, orange pom-poms, or even real tiny pumpkins. Even better, change this completely and use any time of year!

Students will surprise you with how clever they can build a launching device. This cup is suspended in a frame and tied to the frame with rubber bands. I never thought it would work, but it really did very well.

TIP – You need a large space for the competitions. We have a launching line and take turns tossing those pumpkins at stacks of cups.

Another rule: Do not stand behind the cup stacks. You can get hit by a flying pumpkin!

This is one of our favs as I said. It’s a fun challenge and very noisy. If you cannot find those little pumpkins, try pom-poms. On Valentine’s Day, try conversation hearts. In the spring try jelly beans. This is a versatile holiday or any day challenge. Now, go launch some pumpkins!

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Perfect for Halloween! Students love to launch objects and this STEM activity uses pumpkin candy. Those little pumpkins are just the right size to launch through the air. Here's the good news! You can substitute with small plastic pumpkins, orange pom-poms, or even real tiny pumpkins. Even better, change this completely and use any time of year!