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Center for Mathematics and Science Education

The University of Mississippi

In response to the rapidly evolving situation with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Catapult Competition will be postponed until further notice.


The CMSE at the University of Mississippi in coordination with the Division of Outreach and the School of Engineering invite Mississippi students and teachers to participate in an exciting science and engineering event!

Date: POSTPONED (originally scheduled Thursday, April 2, 2020)

Location: Tad Smith Coliseum, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

Grades: 7th – 12th

Cost: $75 per team

The Center for Mathematics and Science Education and the Division of Outreach at the University of Mississippi hosts the Catapult Competition.

The morning of the competition begins with registration, followed by a demonstration of the student designs. At this time, catapults will go through a rigorous safety check to ensure they were constructed within the rules and specifications of the competition. Each team of students designing and constructing a surgical tube catapult that meets the specified criteria will be given the opportunity to launch tennis balls in different competition categories. Faculty members, staff and students from the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and Division of Outreach will manage the competition.

Teams will compete in Design, Pop-A-Shot, Humpty Dumpty, Siege the Castle, and Art & Aesthetic

Awards will be given in each category

An Overall Winner will be determined from the total of the individual event scores

Click here to see the complete 2020 Specifications and Guidelines.

Catapult Competition Schedule

8:00 – 9:30AM
Registration and Safety Check
Team Photos with catapult

8:00 – 11:00AM
Pop-A-Shot – Competition 1

11:00 – 12:30PM
Lunch – Each team is on its own for lunch.

1:00 – 1:50PM
Humpty Dumpty – Competition 2

1:50 – 2:45PM
Siege the Castle – Competition 3

3:00 – 3:30PM
Award Ceremony (participation required)

*times may change. A final schedule will be sent to each participating coach prior to the event.


Catapult Step One

Catapult Step Two



For additional information, please contact:

Address: CMSE, The University of Mississippi, P.O. Box 1848, University, MS 38677-1848

Phone: (662) 915-6621

Fax: (662) 915-1762


Frequently Asked Questions

We are advocates for innovation and challenging the process, so the general answer would be yes. However, if you have any questions, contact us and we can provide clarification and guidance. Always remember that safety is key!

Yes, ball bearing are allowed for the competition.

There are no specific restrictions other than it being an elastomeric tubing with a maximum length of 6ft. This is a key “engineering” decision for the teams. Workout bands are acceptable since they are tubular in shape.

  Tennis balls will be used for the entire competition.

The maximum height from the ground cannot exceed three feet while the throwing arm is in its rest vertical positions.

Just to clarity, the catapult will be measured in “rest” position with the surgical bands relaxed. Generally speaking, the 3 feet restriction is the maximum possible height the catapult measure.

For example, if you are using a stop bar to control the launch angle, it would be the maximum angle, the catapult at rest, and measured to the top of the launch cup.

This requirement means that the machine will have one end of the surgical tubing connected to the throwing arm and the other end of the surgical tubing connected to the frame – this will provide the rotation.

As long as they are stretched linearly, it is within the rules.


Exercise bands are acceptable as they are probably more accessible to many than surgical tubing. We are specifically looking for tubular elastomeric materials for the potential energy, not necessarily latex or surgical

Absolutely, any commercially available off the shelf parts should be. We are more concerned with it meeting the safety requirements than necessarily what parts you choose. As an engineer, we could not in (good conscience) limit your ability to be creative.

We don’t necessarily count against teams for cost, but it is a consideration for designs that are close during judging.

It may be a good idea to separate out the form and function costs. For example – make a value assessment of the catapult with and without the extra cosmetic parts, meaning one assessment with the fancy paints and props and a separate assessment that is the actual catapult (everything the catapult needs to fully function).

This is one of the key additions to this years catapult design specs. You cannot stand directly next to your catapult and need to be able to release the catapult from 36 inches “from the plane of action”. This is the plane that launch arm rotates in, so basically you need to be able to release standing 36″ from the side of launch arm. Footholds (less than 2ft from the side of your catapult) can be added from the main body of the catapult and will not count against the maximum 36″ requirement.