AP Physics Launches Projectiles at Administrators


Riley Kemper’s group poses with their trebuchet after throwing a golf ball 320 feet!

Every year, students in Mr. Plattner’s AP Physics class divide into teams for the trebuchet project. Over the course of first quarter, the students come together with their groups to design, build, and test their trebuchets in order to create one that shoots the farthest.


What is it?

A trebuchet is a machine originally built for hurling stones that was typically used in medieval warfare. A trebuchet uses counterweights to throw objects long distances. Typically, a projectile is attached to a long axle, which is also attached to a counterweight. When the counterweight is released, it swings the axle upward and the projectile goes flying.


What exactly are students doing?

The students in Mr. Plattner’s class are graded on the accuracy of their trebuchets. They are required to throw water balloons 12 meters, with the intent of hitting a human target. The job of being the target is usually done by Mr. Reid, Mr. Yacko, or  Mr. Kosovski. Afterwards, there is a competition to see who can throw an object the farthest. Groups typically use golf balls for this portion. Long distance throws will receive a small amount of extra credit.


How does this project relate to what the students are learning about in class?

This project nicely correlates to what the students are learning about in class. In AP Physics, the students cover a variety of topics, including Gravitational Potential/Kinetic Energy Conservation, Projectile Motion, Torque, and Rotational Motion. All of these units have applications that relate to the trebuchet project.


Who was the best group of this year? Of all time?

This year, the group that came closest to hitting the target was made up of seniors Madison Chaney, Maddy Chalifoux, Robert Bernhardt, and junior Surabhi Jain. They came within 6 inches of hitting their target. For the distance extra credit competition, seniors Martin Walwik, Riley Kemper, Garret Vanhoy, and Ben Mertens hurled a golf ball 320 feet, which landed them in 6th place of all time in the distance category. The best group of all time was a group led by Likith Govindaiah, who graduated in 2013 and is now a student at Princeton University. In 2011, his group managed to throw a gold ball 487 feet.


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