Arbutus Middle School Eagles Soar!

Embracing Innovative, Creative Thinkers to Solve World Problems

During the 2013–14 school year, Arbutus Middle School was awarded a 21st Century Instructional Initiative by The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools, Inc.  Eagles Workshop provided students with an opportunity to work through the engineering design process in an authentic and engaging context. The project included the design, construction, and test of a 1,000-lb counterweighted trebuchet. As a fully integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) project, it inherently lent itself to the many of the Common Core State Standards of Mathematical Practice, all seven of the STEM Standards of Practice, and all eight of the Next Generation Science Standards Science and Engineering practices.  Moreover, a project of this scale required the 21st century skills such as complex problem solving, collaboration, inventive thinking and effective communication that are essential for students to be prepared for colleges and technical careers.

Eagles Workshop specifically targeted key actions found within Goal 1 of the Baltimore County Public Schools Blueprint 2.0. Using a transdisciplinary approach, students were able to learn about the history of siege warfare concurrently while designing, building, and testing their own table-top trebuchets.  Students were able to refine their designs through an iterative and competitive process, from which a final design was selected to scale the full-size trebuchet designed to launch large produce, pumpkins, watermelons, etc.

The measurable educational outcomes anticipated as a result of this program will enable students to:

  • Utilize the engineering design process to participate in several engineering design challenges and to produce a final working model
  • Use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to participate in several engineering design challenges and to produce a final working model
  • Create scale drawings to produce a build plan
  • Accurately measure materials to produce a final working model
  • Utilize basic framing techniques during the construction phase to create a working model

Based on student-driven, student-centered, collaborative/cooperative learning, Arbutus Middle School students worked toward the goal of designing, building, and testing a trebuchet capable of launching a projectile 1,000 feet.    Student worked collaboratively as a team throughout the project, specifically during the construction phase. The skills used in the completion of this project were very clearly career-related:  engineering design and construction, problem solving, creating scale drawings, measurement, and attention to precision. These are applicable in any career the students will pursue, but specifically STEM careers.

The grade levels addressed by this project were 6–8. The core subject areas addressed by this project were mathematics, science, and social studies. The potential impact on students is that they gained valuable experience utilizing the engineering design process through an engaging and authentic context that helps better prepare them for the academic programs and technical careers that await them after graduation.

Expansion of this project to other schools is not just a possibility, but is actually part of the initial proposal that was submitted to the principal in June 2013. The project coordinators envision a BCPS-wide engineering design competition, culminating in a large event reminiscent of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin held annually in Sussex County, Delaware, and seen on the Discovery Channel (see When presented at a Science Department Chair meeting in August, many other schools immediately expressed interest.

Pre- and post-experience surveys were administered to student participants to assess such things as their understanding of the engineering design process, their likelihood of pursuing engineering and technical careers, and confidence in their ability to be successful in engineering and technical careers. Survey questions had quantitative values associated with them via a Likert scale to assess the changes in student perceptions as a result of the project.

Total funds required for Eagle Workshop was $3,773.00 with total funds requested from The Education Foundation of BCPS was $1,996.00.

Video: AMS Trebuchet Launch 11/11/2014

Article: Arbutus Times, Pumpkins go flying at Arbutus Middle


Contacts for Additional Information:

Principal:  Michelle Feeney,  

Project Coordinator: Michael Guarraia,