Marble launchers help propel marbles into the air and are fun toys for kids to make. They can also help to teach basic principles about gravity, angles, velocity and speed, so they make good school projects as well. You can create a marble launcher from items you may have lying around the house. It’s good to let kids come up with their own launcher ideas, too. Even if they don’t work, you can make the experience educational by examining why the project went wrong.
Popsicle Stick Launcher
Cut the end off of a Popsicle stick, using a utility knife, so that the stick is 3 inches long. Cut a large rubber band so that it's a straight piece of rubber. Tape the end inch of the rubber band to the curved end of the stick with masking tape. Set aside.
Cut another Popsicle stick to 2 inches long and place it over one 2-inch side of a piece of 1/2-inch thick, 2-by-4 inch sheet of balsa wood. Glue the stick at both ends then secure it with a 1/2-inch nail in each end. The center should be unglued.
Pry the center of the Popsicle stick open slightly with the tip of an unused nail, then slide the flat end of the stick with the rubber band attached into the gap. The stick should stand firmly upright.
Cut a Popsicle stick to 5 inches long. Cut an inch off the end of the stick then tape the two pieces of the stick back together, with about 1/8 inch between each piece, so that the stick bends at the joint like a hinge.
Cut a slit into the balsa wood about 1/4 inch away from the upright Popsicle stick with the rubber band on its end. Slide the smaller portion of the hinged Popsicle stick into the slit and glue it in place. The longer end should move back and forth freely.
Make a box or basket, about an inch on all sides, from stiff paper and masking tape and stick it to the end of the hinged arm of the marble launcher. Position the arm so that it's at a 45-degree angle, then tape the free end of the rubber band to the hinged arm so that it sits at this angle.
Place a marble in the paper box, hold the balsa base with one hand and pull the hinged arm down with the other. Let go of the hinged arm and it will spring back and launch the marble.
Pool Noodle Launcher
Tape one end of a pool noodle to the side of a kitchen counter or table that's at least 2 feet taller than your chair.
Position the chair about a foot away from the counter or table, then bend the pool noodle so that it resembles a lopsided "U" (see "Resources" section below). Tape the other end of the noodle in place to the chair. The chair end of the "U" should be shorter than the counter or table end.
Insert a marble into the hole in the center of the noodle from the end taped to the counter or table. It will travel down the noodle, then shoot out of the end attached to the chair. Play around with the position of the chair to get different trajectories.
Things You'll Need
- Popsicle sticks
- Utility knife
- Masking tape
- Rubber band
- Balsa wood sheet, 2 by 4 inches, 1/2 inch thick
- Wood glue
- 1/2-inch nails
- Stiff paper
- Pool noodle
- Kitchen counter or table
Never use a marble launcher when it's pointed at someone, and avoid creating designs that propel marbles with great force, such as a slingshot.
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