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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Make Your Own Snowball Launcher

Across the United States, snow flurries are starting to fly, signaling the start of the winter season. With this cool activity, make your own DIY snowball launcher for high-flinging fun on a snowy day!

No snow? No problem! You can put your launcher to the test with crumpled up paper.


Materials Needed:

  • Adhesive (adhesive square, glue or tape)
  • Pencil (unsharpened)
  • Scissors
  • Snow (or copy or scrap paper if snow is not available)
  • Water bottle (empty)


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Carefully cut off the bottom of a plastic water bottle. 

    Helpful hint: Poke a hole or make a small cut on the bottom edge to make it easier to start cutting a circle. 
  2. Take the circular, cut-off bottom piece and attach it to the unsharpened end of a pencil by using any kind of adhesive, like an adhesive square, glue or tape. 
  3. Turn the water bottle upside down, so that the cut-off bottom opening is facing upward, and place the pencil's eraser end inside the bottle through this opening. Let the pencil slide out of the mouth so the plastic circle rests deep inside the bottle. 
  4. Grab a handful of snow to make a snowball, or crumple some paper into a ball shape, then place the snowball or paper ball inside the water bottle through the opening you created. (Your snowball should rest on the plastic circle.) 
  5. Hold your launcher in one hand, with the eraser side of the pencil facing toward you, and aim at your desired target, being mindful of your surroundings. With the other hand, push the pencil into the bottle to launch your snowball and have a chilling good time!


What Are We Discovering?

Creating a snowball launcher is a fun way to explore and understand a whole bunch of fascinating physics concepts. For example, you experience projectile motion by experimenting with angles, forces and velocities. As you observe the momentum of a launch to better understand your snowball’s energy, you’re using the same kinds of skills as National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee Robert Hutchings Goddard, a physicist and inventor who pioneered modern rocketry and space flight.

Inspired by the science fiction that he read as a young man, Goddard dedicated his life to the pursuit of space flight. In 1915, Goddard proved that rocket engines could produce thrust in a vacuum, making space flight possible.


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