Ballistic Launcher Project

Explore the engineering and the design process by building a ballistic launcher.


  • Essential Question: How can statistical analysis affect the design and performance of a ballistic launcher?
  • Areas of study: Engineering and Statistics
  • Type and amount of credit earned: 2 credits, equivalent to a full trimester course
  • Community partner: Engineering and design company


Content Specific Competencies

  • Probability – use theoretical and simulated probability models to determine the likelihood of events.
  • Communication – communicate analysis, methods, and results of experiments and associated analysis.
  • Experimentation – demonstrate an understanding of sampling techniques and experimental design.
  • Engineering – demonstrate an understanding of the problem solving process and the engineering design process.

Schoolwide Learning Expectations

  • Communication – use various media to interpret, question, and express knowledge, information, ideas, feelings, and reasoning to create mutual understanding.
  • Creativity – use original and flexible thinking to communicate ideas or construct a unique product or solution.
  • Collaboration – work in diverse groups to achieve a common goal.
  • Self-Direction – initiate and manage personal learning and demonstrate a growth mindset.

ELO Department Competencies

  • Research – analyze and demonstrate an understanding of a learning experience through reflection.
  • Reflection – apply ongoing research to the evaluation and presentation of issues that arise, and the decisions made as the ELO progresses.
  • Product – demonstrate new knowledge and develop a tangible product that relates to the student’s interests, skills, and abilities.
  • Presentation – communicate the entire ELO experience, including the process and the learning, in a manner that is appropriate to the experience and the audience.

See the detailed ELO description for the full text of these competencies.

Student activities

Student followed the design process he learned in an Introduction to Engineering class.

  1. Complete the problem identification for the project: figure out what you will make, what materials you will use, where you will get the materials, and research possible designs for the project.
  2. Complete multiple concepts for the design of the project.
  3. Compare and contrast the different concepts for your design, and chose the one you will base your final design on.
  4. Make refinements to your chosen design concept. Identify what parts need to be built and how much of a material/part is needed.
  5. Complete construction of your project and make predictions for its performance. For example, predict how far a projectile would be launched at different angles.
  6. Complete all testing and data collection for your project.
  7. Use statistical analysis to determine whether the differences in the predicted values and collected values are significant, and then make any necessary adjustments.
  8. Reflect on conclusions drawn from the statistical analysis, problems that came up during the design process, and what could have been done differently. If necessary, make further refinements to the project.
  9. Prepare to present your project and the findings you gathered from your experience.

School partners

  • Engineering Teacher
  • Statistics Teacher
  • Physics Teacher
  • ELO Coordinator


Three high school teachers acted as the student’s mentors through the entire process. They were responsible for meeting with the student on a regular basis.  The Engineering Teacher acted as the Lead Mentor Teacher, met with the student daily and was primarily responsible for the student’s assessment.

The Community Partner, iMagic, acted as a mentor to the student during the build of the Ballistic Launcher. A couple times during the ELO the student shared their designs and progress on building the launcher for feedback and problem-solving.

Student was responsible for regularly checking in with his mentor teachers to review the student’s construction journal. The student documented their research by indicating their source and how they used the information gathered, and also completed a final reflection paper. The product was a complete, reliable and accurate ballistic launcher that used ping pong balls. The student’s final presentation and demonstration was to a introductory design class. (This is actually where the student first got the idea for their ELO, taking a design created in that class and expanding upon it.)

More information

The community partner for this project happened to be the student’s parent.  I would recommend that other ELO coordinators be sure to encourage a student to reach beyond their comfort zone to find a person in the engineering field to help them problem-solve throughout the building process.

This ELO was submitted by Donna Couture, ELO Coordinator at Winnacunnet High School. Email for more information