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Marshmallow toss: how does the angle of a cannonball launcher affect the cannonball's flight?

THINK: Which launches a skateboarder higher into the air: jumping off a steep ramp, or a ramp with a more gradual slope?

PREDICT: Will a marshmallow cannonball fly farther if it is shot from a launcher at a steep angle or a less-inclined one?
You'll need

* paint stir stick
* small Styrofoam or
  wooden block, roughly 5
  cm (2 in.) tall
* spoon
* tape
* meter stick
* ruler
* mini marshmallows


[] 1. First, build a marshmallow-cannonball
launcher. Start by laying
a paint stir stick flat on a table.
Place a 5 centimeter (2 inch)-tall
block on one end of the stick.

[] 2. Place the handle of a spoon
on top of the block. The "bowl" of
the spoon should face up and be
positioned near the center of the
paint stir stick.

[] 3. Wrap tape around the spoon,
block, and stick to hold them
together tightly.

[] 4. Tape a marshmallow to the
bowl of the spoon near the handle.
This will create a ledge that will
hold your marshmallow cannonball.

[] 5. Lay a meter stick on the floor.
Place the launcher you made at the
O-meter end of the meter stick. The
launcher should be positioned so
the paint stick is flat on the floor
and the block touches the edge of
the meter stick.

[] 6. Place a marshmallow in the
bowl of the spoon.

[] 7. Keep the block end of the paint
stick on the floor. Using the ruler
as a guide, lift the other end of
the paint stick so it forms an angle
with the floor. Position the stick so
that the lifted end is 2.5 cm (1 in.)
above the floor.

[] 8. Pull back on the bowl of the
spoon until it touches the paint stir
stick. Then, let go of the bowl of the

[] 9. Use the meter stick to
determine the distance from
the launcher to where the
marshmallow first lands. Record
your results.

[] 10. Repeat steps 5 to 9. This time,
angle your launcher so that the end
is 10 cm (4 in.) above the floor.



1. At which launcher height did the marshmallow travel farthest?

2. How did the angle affect how far the marshmallow flew?

3. What other factors, besides the angle of the launcher, do you think affects how far the marshmallow flies?


For Grades K-4

* Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

* Position and motion of objects

For Grades 5-8

* Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

* Motions and forces


Life Skills--Following directions

ESTIMATED TIME: 60 minutes


Discussion Questions

* What happens if you put an object in a slingshot, pull back the sling, and then release it? (The object in the slingshot will fly forward.)

* What circus act is like a slingshot? (the human cannonball)



1. Answers may vary due to uncontrolled variables, but according to physics principles, the marshmallow should travel farthest when the launcher is roughly 10 cm (4 in.) off the ground.

2. Answers may vary due to uncontrolled variables, but according to physics principles, the marshmallow should have flown farthest at the higher angle. (Note: the ideal angle is 45 degrees.)

3. Answers will vary, but may include: elasticity of the spoon, weight of the marshmallow, size of the block (which determines how far the spoon is pulled), etc.



Scroll down to "General Ballistic Trajectory" to see clear visuals showing the path objects take when launched at various angles.
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Title Annotation:hands-on
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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