Blog: Bright Ideas

Behind the Major: Catapult Builders

Picture this: you carefully place your catapult at the starting line for its inaugural test. You pull back the throwing arm, feeling the tension of the building potential energy, and picture the projectile flying far across the field. You pull a little further, and a little further, then release. The projectile rockets out—then hits the ground a few feet in front of you. It’s not the outcome you expected, and perhaps you feel disappointed, frustrated, or a little embarrassed. But right on the heels of those feelings is a question: How can I make this better?

At Galileo Summer Quest, we’re all about these little failures. We call them marvelous mistakes, and we believe they’re some of our best opportunities to reflect, improve, and grow. In our Catapult Builders major, it may seem like campers are making just that—catapults. And they are. But they’re also making a whole ton of marvelous mistakes. We sat down with Galileo science curriculum developer Davin Lyons to learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes of this high-flying major.

What do you love about this major?

This is a major where campers take home something physically tangible and seriously cool—a fully-functional catapult. But what I really love is that the catapult a camper takes home is something they built with their own two hands. It’s something that they truly understand. After rounds of troubleshooting and redesign to fix, improve and optimize the design of each catapult, what goes home at the end of the week is truly a one-of-a-kind device that represents a ton of hard work and learning.

What are you most excited about for this major?

My favorite moment is always to watch campers test their catapults. The launch itself is exciting, but what’s really amazing is seeing campers identify ways in which their catapults can be improved, then act on those ideas. It’s an awesome environment for testing, evaluating, and redesigning in real-time. I love seeing that play out.

What will be the most exciting thing for campers? The most challenging?

Definitely launching their catapults for the first time. They work towards this one big moment, and of course the first launch is hugely exciting. Catapults often don't work as expected during that first test, and overcoming the initial disappointment of "mine doesn't work!" can be hard. But at GSQ, we know these moments are opportunities to practice being determined and reflective. Once campers refine their design, they are even more psyched when it does work.

How will campers practice the Galileo Innovation Approach in this major?

While campers will focus on a different aspect of the innovator’s mindset every day, campers in Catapult Builders will have a chance to practice the whole mindset on a daily basis. For example, campers will be visionary when they generate ideas for tricking out their catapults. They’ll be courageous when they test their catapults; it’s not always easy to test something you’ve worked hard on in front of your peers, especially when there’s a chance that it may not work as expected. Even when catapults are functional from the start, campers will need to be determined as they redesign again and again to level up their catapults. Campers will be reflective, as evaluating why a catapult isn’t working as expected and making plans for redesign takes serious thought. And of course, campers will be collaborative throughout as they share ideas and help each other to build and troubleshoot their catapults.

Making a catapult is no easy thing. For many campers, the skills and concepts are unfamiliar, and success may not feel like a sure thing. It’s through this struggle that campers challenge themselves to think like innovators. At the end of the week, campers have pushed themselves to create something amazing, and they’ve had a ton of fun in the process. The catapults campers create are cool, but the confidence and innovation skills they build along the way? They’re absolutely extraordinary.