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Students launch in the Teen STEAM program at library
I-Marshmallow catapults pic 1
Participants laugh as one marshmallow flies errantly from a handmade catapult. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

Before marshmallows were handed out last week at the Dawson County library, local teens and pre-teens were given roughly 45 minutes to build from scratch a catapult that would have the capability of launching said marshmallow.

Tracy Walker, youth services coordinator at the library, greeted kids as they entered a room with multiple tables set up with supplies. Walker then gave brief instructions to the nine participants.

"Each table has exactly the same amount of items on it with the exception of rubber bands. This is everything you have to work with to create your own catapult," she said.

She then showed some examples of previous marshmallow-firing contraptions and explained that the goal is to be able to launch the farthest.

Kids chose tables where they had the option to use items including toilet paper tubes, paperclips, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, scotch tape, duct tape, scissors, Styrofoam cups, Styrofoam bowls, clear plastic cups and plastic spoons.

The event is part of the library's Teen STEAM program. It offers what the library calls "adventures in science, technology, engineering, art and math."

It is a free monthly program.

"Give it a test run with a paperclip. They are approximately the same weight as a marshmallow," one young participant called out to his fellow-catapult constructor.

Students went to work building catapults of a variety of shapes and sizes.

There were debates on the best length to use for the lever and the best angle for launching.

There were structures as simple as a plastic spoon rubber-banded to a tape dispenser to elaborate towers with multiple options for launching.

One side project looked a lot like a cross bow.

Kids tested their creations using bits of rolled up tape or wads of rubber bands for ammunition.

Multiple participants agreed that if they were stranded on a desert island, duct tape would be the one supply of choice for survival.

After the allotted construction period was complete, Walker called the building time to a close and then rearranged the room for testing the contraptions.

The kids took turns at the taped start line to launch their marshmallow. Walker marked the landing spots with tape and a single marshmallow until all had been fired.

The winning catapult of 9-year-old Jenna launched her marshmallow a good 7-8 feet away while a couple came close to her mark and a couple actually fired backwards.

Walker offered prize books and candy to the top three competitors.

The next Teen STEAM event will be from 4-5 p.m. on Feb. 15. Students will build paper bridges and see whose can hold up the most Matchbox cars.