Upper Batley High School

Project: Art-illery! 
Science topic: Forces & Motion
Participants: Year 7 students
Artist: Craig Dyson

Our Forces and Motion project will see us looking at the design of medieval catapults to explore principles such as gravity and trajectory and variables such as wind. We will be aiming (no pun intended!) to produce various paintings or artworks using paint propelled by a catapult designed and manufactured by the group. Obviously we have a big opportunity to do something different, so we are planning something fun, big and unique. Not only will we be tackling some difficult scientific challenges but we will also be aiming to create an effective and impressive large-scale artwork which takes Art and Science to the next level. If all goes to plan, with some careful experimenting, clever designing and hard work, we’re hoping that our exhibits will be the catapult itself and some colourful, abstract artwork alongside it.


Session 1: 1st February 2017
Today we met with Craig Dyson and Steve Mosley. Craig is a sculptor and Steve an engineer who works for Cummins Turbo Technologies in Huddersfield – they employ over 5000 people! It was great to hear how they both got into the position they are in today and we enjoyed asking questions about their careers. After the introductions we talked about how we would be making Art-illery. This is the name we have given our project because we are making a huge painting in a very different way – we will be building a paint catapult. We researched medieval catapult designs and made sketches of what we plan to build, based on our research and our own ideas. We also assembled some very challenging miniature working models. After this we experimented with various tools and techniques such as tenon saws, set squares, belt sanders and mitre squares. These news skills will come in handy when we build the real thing. We are excited to see what’s next!

“We worked as a team and looked out for each other”

“Without designs we can’t make anything properly”

“I really enjoyed making the catapult but I did find it difficult”

“What next? Let me at it!”

“Teamwork gets things done!”

“The session was buzzing with activity. Learning new skills to create wood joints, teamwork to build catapults and a design lab to innovate our new ideas. It was great to see learners building new skillsets” (staff member)

Session 2: 6th February 2017
Now on our second session we are already becoming more confident with our skills. First we had a quick evaluation of last week’s session and recapped on some of our scientific and artistic vocabulary. We learnt how important safety is, especially when using new tools and machinery like belt sanders. We worked in pairs to create miniature catapults based on our designs from session 1. We also looked at how the catapults will create our final artwork. The models we assembled last week were used to fire different types of paper with different consistencies of paint. We used bright colours and shot the painted tissue towards a large piece of paper, experimenting with changing the projection angle and velocity of the missile to get different patterns and cover areas of varying sizes. Slowly but surely a great piece of art started to emerge. Next session we are going to enlarge our miniature sculptures to 7x the size!

“Scaling down is very useful to understand the mechanics of a simple machine”

“Firing paint was fun but I did learn a lot about how to aim and how far to fire so that the painting looked good”

“I enjoyed using the new saw that is designed to cut 45 degree angles. These are also known as mitre cuts”

“The word specification is hard to say but better to understand, I worked to sp…specif….specification in order to make a catapult that would work”

“The students were amazed and engaged in the new techniques they were learning. They were working as teams to build catapults following the specification. It was fantastic to see them working with such independence” (staff member)

Session 3: 15th February 2017
Now on session 3 we are getting more and more into the project. As the large catapult becomes a reality we can see how it is going to work. It’s becoming more challenging as we assemble our own miniature catapults that we designed and made from scratch. It’s one thing to make it look pretty but to get the mechanics to work is a much harder challenge. Not only does it need to fire successfully but it needs to go in the correct direction, at the correct speed for the correct distance. We learnt a few new tricks as well, such as how a normal wood saw can act as a marker for 90 degree and 45 degree cuts. We started to assemble the large catapult and look forward to seeing how well it actually works in our final session. We feel quite confident that our technical designs and skills have developed enough to make it a success!      

“The hot glue guns fascinated me, we are learning about solids and liquids but you don’t always think about the manufacturing processes that use this method”

“Together, we achieve more”

“I’ve seen the pillar drills before but never fully understood how they work, now I know and used the machine to drill accurate and precise holes”

“Think before you cut”

“Cut once, measure twice”

“I noticed the class working technically and scientifically today using new equipment such as hot melt glue guns and the pillar drill. Next week we will be using even more machines to complete our large Art-illery artwork” (staff member)

Session 4: 27th February 2017
With our final session upon us we had three ultimate challenges: to finish our miniature catapults, to fire them, and then to create the large artwork for the exhibition using the ‘big boy’ catapult and paintballs. Before we started the practical work, Steve (our Cummins scientist) gave a short but fascinating presentation about how turbo chargers in engines work and how very similar to catapults they are. This final session was all about problem solving. When we got the catapult set up outside it started to rain. We didn’t realise how much this variable would affect how the catapult worked. Some paintballs were travelling 5 meters and some were going 50 meters. We really struggled at first because we had so many variables – the weight of the missile, the wind and the rain all made it very difficult to hit our target. Eventually we decided to change from paintballs (water balloons) to tissue soaked in paint and soon enough we started to hit the canvas. After hundreds of shots on target and many more that weren’t, we ended up with a really cool piece of art in the style of Jackson Pollock. Great success!

“I will take a lot of confidence from these sessions. I’ve noticed that I have some good skills in areas I haven’t really explored before”

“Ready, aim, wait wait wait! Trajectory adjustment, FIRE!” (we still missed)

“I feel like a Roman attacking a city, but just painting the city rather than destroying it”

“Medieval people must have had quite big brains to have wars based on science all the time”

“Today we looked at the similarities of a trebuchet and a turbo charge. It was really exciting”

“I was excited because it was raining and we were firing paint balloons at the canvas”

“I learnt how far a paint bomb can go and how to angle the catapult to change the trajectory” 

“I have had a wonderful time”

“To see what the students have achieved in a very short space of time has been unbelievable. Fears overcome, issues resolved and a lot of hard work has created an amazing piece of art that was produced in an incredibly fun way” (staff member)

A few final words from our teacher

Scientific language was embedded in all sessions and came as second nature when discussing and testing the catapult artwork. Students were fully engaged in their scientific learning; students who don’t enjoy science as a subject in school were thinking and learning scientifically without realising, by working on their practical outcomes. Students also displayed fantastic teamwork skills within the project. The whole project was based on class collaboration in making a big catapult, while making the smaller catapults involved working in pairs. Craig gave each a group an easy-to-follow specification list and plan which they had to follow to create their own catapults. I was really blown away by the independence and problem-solving skills the group showed – this is definitely a skill they have developed and is now noticeable in my day-to-day teaching of this class.”   Louise Farrar – Head of PSHCE