activity page will offer:
A mousetrap car construction challenge
arena for building and testing design ideas
opportunity to critique the mousetrap car's performance,
redesign it, and retest it
the following sites to obtain print outs of one or more designs
to be shared among the students. These designs should be used
to discuss the general components and universal construction
techniques needed to assemble a basic mousetrap car.
Includes a QT movie of a mousetrap car in action.
An online photo album of winning mousetrap car designs.
a vehicle powered by the release of a mousetrap spring.
vehicle must cover a flat distance of 5-meters in the shortest
amount of time.
additional power source can be applied to the vehicle.
of two students should work on each design.
cannot use more than $5.00 worth of material in the construction
of the car.
teams must wear protective eye gear when assembling and
launching the vehicle.
(about 2 inches by 4 inches)
$5.00 value of construction materials
for constructing car
stick (for measuring race track)
to time the cars
is essential that students wear protective eye gear when building
and launching the mousetrap cars. They should also be mindful
of the "snap" of the mousetrap bar and use caution when opening,
setting, and releasing the tension bar. Do not use rat
traps. Rat traps can easily break a finger when snapped shut.
with a partner. Examine the images of mousetrap cars that
have been printed out by your instructor.
the entire class, discuss the basic elements of designing
a mousetrap car. Make a list. What design elements should
be common to all cars? What is the sequence for assembly?
Is there only one way to build a mousetrap car? Which parts
of the design can be customized? Share your ideas.
up into teams. Your first challenge is to build a non-powered
vehicle. To get you started in the basic design, you'll
use a flat, rectangular candy box. Since these boxes are
constructed with heavy stock material, they will offer a
stable platform on which to attach the trap and assemble
the placement and type of wheels that you will use. Will
your car be supported by four wheels or will it have a tricycle
design? Do large wheels work better than small ones? Does
wheel width affect performance?
what you've learned to create a blueprint for your prototype
mousetrap car. Don't be extravagant. Keep the design simple.
Remember, this first test car is not powered.
your blueprints with your instructor. With you teacher's
approval assemble this non-powered vehicle.
testing your vehicle by pushing it along the ground, improve
its performance. What changes can result in a more stable
and longer traveling vehicle? How can those changes be implemented?
With your instructor's approval, update your design.
2- The Power
you learned, the energy needed to propel the mousetrap car
comes from the spring of the trap. When the spring is pulled
back, it stores energy. With a controlled release of this
tension, the energy can be transferred into the spin of the
the design printouts so that you understand the nature and
action of the mousetrap.
a new blueprint that shows the placement of the mousetrap
on your candy box chassis. Include any design changes that
are necessary to accommodate a pull string. Remember, one
end of the pull string is tied to the spring bar of the
trap. The free end is wrapped around the power axle. As
the mousetrap spring shuts close, the movement of the controlled
release is transferred to the spin of the axle.
this updated blueprint with your instructor. With his or
her approval, assemble this powered version of the mousetrap
car. Make sure that you adhere to the construction techniques
and design you identified in your blueprints.
the design. Does the car travel the fixed distance of the
track (5 meters)? How long does the car take to travel this
distance? How can it move quicker? Where is energy lost?
How can the action of the mousetrap more efficiently be
converted into movement of the car? Think about these parameters.
Redesign your car to test these factors and improve its
about it. Can you gain an advantage with a longer "pull
bar"? Will leverage increase the effectiveness of the mousetrap
action? With you instructor's approval, design an experiment
that would test if an extended bar would produce a more
efficient car, then build your design.
in a classroom contest. Have the instructor identify a flat
race area that is five meters in length. See how long it takes
each car to complete the distance. Keep tweaking the design.
Which team improves the most? Which team has the best design?
What design elements are most critical to the design of a
Videotape Your Race
possible, use a video camera to capture a record of your winning
design. Can you create a QuickTime movie of this event? If
wants to see your winning mousetrap car in action! Send your
name, age, and school, along with a QuickTime movie to firstname.lastname@example.org
with the subject heading "Mousetrap Car Video." Selected movies
will be posted on this site. All submissions are eligible
for a drawing for free prizes, including a Walkalong
In order to be eligible, all students under 18 must have a
release form signed by a parent
and mailed to Chedd-Angier, 70 Coolidge Hill Rd., Watertown,
A wonderful student guide for assembling a mousetrap car.
An online photo album of winning mousetrap car designs.
Shows a QT movie of a mousetrap car in action.
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Academic Advisors for this Guide:
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools,
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School,