Have fun thinking about physics while doing this online interactive. The goal of this activity is to adjust a trebuchet, one of the most devastating weapons of the Middle Ages, in order to crush a castle wall. You, as well as medieval engineers, will use trial and error techniques to adjust the trebuchet to make sure its missile hits and destroys the castle wall.
To begin, you should read “How Your Trebuchet Works” to get information about how you can design your trebuchet. It has links at the bottom to each of the five key elements: distance, wheels/no wheels, sling length, stone ball weight, and counterweight design.
Once you are more familiar with a trebuchet, you can click on the icon “Play Destroy the Castle.” There are five elements that you can adjust to your trebuchet: distance from the castle, whether to add wheels, sling length, stone ball weight, and counterweight design. These icons are listed in the dark-blue area across the top of the game. Once you select a design, a “Fire” icon will appear next to the adjustment icons that you can click. If you build the trebuchet right, your weapon will crush the wall. If not, you can try again.
This site is fun and a great resource for students to learn more about physics (and a little bit about the medieval times). By designing their own trebuchet, students will be forced to think about different aspects of physics. As students hopefully noticed, the process of designing equipment can be a great learning experience but it also can be dangerous.
Information on this site also can be tied to topics in history and technology. Have students go to the main page, scroll down and click on “How Your Trebuchet Works.” Now they can click on each key element and read about how it affects the trebuchet. Then, have students select an area of physics (or history or technology) that relates to this machine. Have students tell you what they selected and decide which topics are appropriate. Then, divide the class into groups so that they can research the topic further. Try to keep students in areas of their interest so they enjoy the project and hopefully get more out of this learning experience. Give them a timeline and have them sign up when their group will teach their topic to the class.