K-12 Private Christian School in Northwest Houston, TX

Mechanical Engineering and Catapults

Throughout the year, the engineering class learns about the different types of engineering. The class recently explored mechanical engineering. Some topics covered are:

  • Where do mechanical engineers work?
  • What do mechanical engineers study? 
  • What are the subfields within the mechanical engineering discipline?

The goal in the engineering class is to have a basic understanding of each type of engineering through lessons, guest speakers and hands-on projects. Mechanical engineering deals with everything that moves or flows.

Simple machines and compound machines are the foundation of many modern conveniences. Engineers use a combination of levers, wedges, screws, wheels-and-axles, pulleys and inclined planes to develop simple tools such as a pencil sharpener to complex machines such as an elevator or airplane. Compound machines are everywhere. Engineers usually design machines for a specific function, as specified by their clients. Engineers also have to design within certain constraints, including time, money and human resources. 

This year, students reinforced their understanding of compound machines by building a catapult. This compound machine consists of a lever and a wheel-and-axle. Catapults have been designed by engineers for a variety of purposes — from lifting boulders into the air for warfare to human beings for entertainment; the projectiles in this activity are grapes for a magic act. Given the building materials, the students designed and built their catapult to launch a grape a certain distance.