Trajectory Launcher

Ping Pong Launcher next to Skittle Launch3erGoal

From your experience in wood fabrication and quadratics, develop an original product that has the ability to launch ping pong balls to hit targets at various ranges and heights using a parabolic curve

Math Standards

A.CED Create equations that describe numbers or relationships.

F.IF Interpret functions that arise in applications in terms of context

F.BF Build a function that models a relationship between two quantities.

CTE Standards

Understand and apply the engineering design cycle. From concept to design to production.

Design Specifications

Through the use of the design cycle, students will in (teams of 4) produce a Trajectory Launcher that can:

  1. Distance – launch a ping pong ball projectile a minimum of 20 feet.
  2. Accuracy – Hitting the following targets with a ping pong ball.

– @ 5’ on flat ground

– @ 5’ with a 24” launch elevation

– @ 10’ on flat ground

– @ 10’ with a 24” launch elevation

  1. Must not exceed 1’6”x1’6”x1’6” overall dimensions
  2. Must be free standing (not hand held) and only a single human motion can be used
  3. No compressed air or chemical reactions.
  4. Graphically represent TWO launches – one without a launch elevation and one with a 24” launch elevation. For each:

– Identify key points (vertex, X & Y Intercepts)

– Write the equation in vertex form

– Make connections between math and your launch

– Extend to vertex form 

Task List:

  • Define trajectory.
  • What is a parabolic curve and give an example?
  • What does vertex mean and how is it normally represented?
  • Vertex form and standard form.
  • Y-intercept and how its tied in to launch height.
  • Using what you know about quadratics, what can you use in order to help you with the design/fabrication.
  • Explain the difference between the theory in the math & the actual launcher.
  • Copy, paste, cite thumbnails/examples from other sources online.
  • Generate 3 thumbnails of preliminary designs.
  • Generate a rough orthographic drawing of your design based on your investigation. Create the product.

Teacher Notes

Design and manufacture in groups of 4

Use the design cycle most appropriate to your situation (all are very similar to each other). We use the IB design cycle.

Teacher will supply the following materials.

Various sized scrap wood in the wood shop and from Geometry in Construction

1 – Spring

1 – 1’ long 2” PVC piping

1 – Cut by order 1’ 6” by 1’ 6” rectangular plywood

Different sized Rubber Bands

1 – Ping pong ball when ready for testing

Your team can provide any other needed materials as long as the instructor approves it.

The testing area will need to be located next to a wall with some type of marking on the wall. This will allow video (cell phones) of launches for determining the height (vertex) of the parabola, which is needed for writing of the quadratic function.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 3.06.21 PMOpener to the activity the day before is for the teacher to have a simple candy launcher to demo. See photo right of a sample from the internet.