Friday, December 2, 2011

Mideival Siege Machines

I have a boy. He just turned 12, and I still feel like I can't get used to "doing boy". I want to sew, knit, crochet... But I have a boy. [This post had an error, so it has been edited. Sorry if you received it twice.]

So I force myself to stretch outside my comfort zone. Sometimes something comes along that makes this a little easier. Today I get to tell you about some products that do just that.

This past month I had the privilege to receive, to review, from Pitsco Education, a package of Mideival  siege machines -- a model trebuchet, a model catapult, and an informative booklet (Siege Machines) on the science, technology, engineering and math of medieval siege machines [soft spiral bound paper].

When the package first arrived, I was busy with something, and I was unwilling to let my (then) 11 year old son loose on the project without supervision. So, the day finally arrived and my son dug into the project of the trebuchet model, and I supervised, assisting whenever asked. He was doing very well. I took photographs.

I loved the way the complexity of this project reduced my son to reading instructions. Like every guy, he seems to first try to make it based on his intuition, second try to make it be looking at the pictures, and third will finally read the instructions if he absolutely has to.
 We some sort of superglue, and my son tried to be careful and keep newspaper under the project. We had our share of fingers sticking together...

But during the project I got a phone call--I had forgotten to check my calendar. I had missed a scheduled doctor's appointment, but if I could come right in they wouldn't charge me a "Missed Appointment" fee. ::sigh:: So I left my son working on the project and flew to my doctor's appointment. (There was another adult home, but not one to help him.) So my son continued working.

So while I was at the doctor's office I must have talked with my son on the phone at least four times! He finished the project. It was "really lame".  But he took photographs.
Then the next phone call, he was in tears: "I didn't mean it to happen, mom! It's broken! I lost my balance and fell on it. It's ruined!" I had visions of a pancake.

I didn't take photos of the trebuchet, but it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was pretty bad, though. He had snapped the main long arm right at the pivot point -- snapped it right in half. Well, I bought out the white glue, glued it, and repaired it. I am sure it isn't very strong. Later we might reinforce it by gluing a craft stick to it instead, but for now it is at least in one piece.
In addition to everything else, my son apparently cut the string wrong, so there's a knot on the cord holding the bucket -- but it's functional, but I don't know how strong. My husband actually was really impressed -- that's hard to do!

So we waited for a space of days, and then we (he) took on the catapult. This one was easier... I don't know if it is easier in general or if it was just because he already one model under his belt.

 A success story? I wish. There was a hole on a trigger piece that a dowel rod was supposed to fit through. It wasn't fitting. So my son took the craft knife and tried to make the hole bigger. (I didn't know he was having trouble. He didn't tell me, didn't ask for help, didn't ask for advice. It's such a "guy" thing...) The trigger piece could not take the stess. It broke.

So, again the wailing from my son, the defeatist attitude, the complaint that these are such "cheap products". (He is used to building with plastic bricks. They are much more durable. I am rolling my eyes, feeling like I'm dealing with a bull in a china shop.) Out comes the white glue again, the mom, the patient waiting for it to fully dry for 24 hours or so, and voila! We have success. And strong success.
My son loves it. My husband is, again, impressed. And I think these are great products. Granted, they are made of balsa wood, and our rough and tumble boys need to learn care to work with balsa wood, but it is a skill worth acquiring.

In addition to the models, there is an entire unit study now for us to go through so that my son can fully understand the science and engineering behind these machines, their history, and the mathematics involved in hitting your target. I can't wait.

Before this review, I had never heard of Pitsco Education. Going to their website, I am amazed at the wonderful products they carry and the variety of educational fields they can supplement. We have long been into model building, rocketry and robotics, and I am delighted to have learned of this new source for projects. I find their prices very reasonable, and I like the completeness of their kits.

The Trebuchet and Catapult Kit costs $21.95, and comes with everything you saw in my photos. Or, you can buy just the Catapult Kit or the Trebuchet Kit for $10.95. There are various combinations you can purchase, with more or less included in various different-priced kits. I really loved the kit I received because it included absolutely everything we needed to do the project.

Pitsco Education has projects for airplanes, rockets, race cars, buildings, bridges, domes, and entire divisions for education in Math, Engineering, Science, solar energy, robotics, and so much more. I am so delighted to have learned of them.

Here are the "down and dirty" specs:
  • This product is designed for students in the Middle School/High School age range. With supervision, I'm sure some 4th/5th graders can handle the project and the information. It's ideal for use when studying the Middle Ages, but some of these tools were used even as late as World War II!
  • This is an ideal project for all learners, but especially the most tactile learners.
  • This project required little teacher preparation. (I needed to locate the glue I wanted to use and put down newspaper under the workspace. I opted to have a craft knife and mat on hand, but I don't think it was necessary. I also used needle-nosed pliers and wire cutters with the paper clips.)
  • The project kit is consumable; the book is reusable. (Obvious, right?)
  • This project is religious-neutral. (It will not offend, is not in any way religious.)
  • I liked everything about this project.
  • There was not one thing I would change. It was so good I cannot even make any recommendations for improvement!
  • I highly recommend this project to anyone with "tween-aged" kids, especially boys.
  • This would be particularly good to schedule into your plans when you are studying the Middle Ages.
So, I hope you have enjoyed learning about this company and these products as much as I did!
Disclosure: I received a free Trebuchet and Catapult Kit in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I received no other compensation (other than the aforementioned), and this page contains my honest opinions.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.

To read more reviews of this product, visit the TOG Crew Review page for this product.Throw me a bone! Leave me a comment! I love comments!

1 comment :

  1. GREAT Review....I love all of the personal pictures and the impact it had on your family!