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Extension Activity

Super Slinger Engineering Challenge

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You are challenged to design, build and test small-scale launchers. For the challenge, the “slingers” must be able to aim and launch ping-pong balls 20 feet into a goal using ordinary building materials such as tape, string, plastic spoons, film canisters, plastic cups, rubber bands and paper clips. After making drawings, constructing and testing prototypes, evaluate the results and make recommendations for potential second-generation prototypes.

Materials List

● piece of drawing paper, for engineer illustration
● 1 cardboard box cover (such as the cover from a box that contains 10 reams of copy machine paper)
● Ping-Pong ball
● masking tape
● 10 feet (305 cm) string
● 4 plastic spoons
● 4 film canisters
● 6 pencils
● 4 plastic cups
● 12 rubber bands
● 12 paper clips

Simple Diagraum illustrating design options to create small-scale launchers


What does the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” mean? In general, it means that new designs are created because we need solutions to problems. Engineers are today’s problem solvers. By following the steps of the engineering design process, engineers systematically approach and define problems and then arrive at viable solutions. You are going to go through the engineering design process and learn just how engineers create effective solutions!


● constraint: A limitation or restriction. For engineers, constraints are the limitations that must be considered when designing a workable solution to a problem.

● engineering design process: The iterative process through which engineers develop solutions to meet an objective. The steps of the process include: identifying a problem, brainstorming, designing, constructing, testing, analysis and evaluation, redesigning, retesting, and sharing a solution. Science, mathematics and engineering science concepts are applied throughout the process to optimize the solution.

● functions: The capabilities or tasks that an engineering solution is able to perform.

● objectives: Desired outcomes for an engineering design or product.

● problem statement: A sentence or two that describes the identified problem or challenge an engineer or engineering team is working to solve.

● prototype: An early functional version (a model, a mockup) of a design to help move the design process forward by improving the team’s understanding of the problem, identifying missing requirements, evaluating design objectives and product features, and getting feedback from others.

● requirements: The overall objectives, functions and constraints of a project.


a. Look over the materials and design a possible solution to the problem: launch a ping pong ball 20 ft into a designated target.

b. First draw out your design and list materials that you will need for your design.

c. Grab materials and start building.

d. After you have completed your design, test it out.

e. If it does not work, try determining the problem and redesign it. If it does work, challenge yourself, make the distance longer or make it do something else.

* There is not a step by step procedure on how to create your super-slinger. That is up to you to determine. However, we have included some possible designs and examples if you need some help brainstorming.

Simple Launcher prototype using household items