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How a Catapult Works: The Basics

The Most Important Piece of Catapults: Tension
  • The entire catapulting process depends on the storing of potential energy as tension (of ropes or wooden arm) or gravitational potential energy

5 Easy Steps to Catapulting:
    1. Pull the arm back (rope in case of Ballista)
    2. Place missiles in bucket, sling, or nook
    3. Release potential energy. Work is done on the arm.
    4. Arm collides with with base and is brought to an abrupt stop.
    5. Missiles retain the kinetic energy from the work done on the arm. This kinetic energy launches the missiles at the target.
Animations of a Ballista, Mangonel, and Trebuchet:

Trebuchet Catapult Animation -  Animated trebuchet showing the complete firing cycle including the counterweight path and sling release.                                                                                                            This animation is courtesy of : http://www.redstoneprojects.com/trebuchetstore/catapultanimation.html
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