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Lesson learned: If a toilet can't fly, a stunt can soar Catapult hurls short, fixture hangs high; students raise $500


Toilets don't fly.

That's a lesson Burleigh Manor Middle School students learned yesterday after their homemade trebuchet -- a medieval catapult -- failed to fling a 40-pound porcelain toilet as part of a school fund-raising effort.

"I knew it wouldn't go very far, but I thought it would at least go somewhere," said eighth-grader Stephen Green, 13, as he watched the broken toilet dangling from the top of the catapult's arm.

Minutes earlier, the catapult -- perched on a hill above the Ellicott City school's baseball diamond -- had been hurling rotten pumpkins, chairs, computer screens and medicine balls up to 100 feet.

Students paid 50 cents a guess to predict how far each item would fly, hoping their math and physics skills would help them estimate where the items would land.

More than $500 went into the school's activity fund by the end of the afternoon.

Students guessed the toilet would be flung anywhere from 10 feet to a couple of dozen yards.

However, it simply was too heavy for the 15-foot-long wooden contraption.

"It didn't really matter," said Burleigh Manor band director Jeffry Brodie. "The kids saw that science projects don't always work."

Mr. Brodie and physical education teacher Neil Sullivan, who constructed the catapult with the help of students, were as excited as their pupils.

"They say that if middle school teachers teach in middle school long enough, they become like their students," said Marilyn O'Loughlin, Burleigh Manor media specialist, as she watched the teachers preparing to launch another pumpkin. "I guess this proves it."

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