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How to Build a Mousetrap Car

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this engineering project, you'll be learning how to harness the potential energy in a mousetrap to power a model car. By the end of the lesson, you'll understand more about energy conversions and the law of conservation of energy.

Introduction

Goal: Build a mousetrap car
Age: Middle school and up
Safety concerns: Wire cutters and precision knives are sharp. Hot glue can burn your skin. Use caution.
Time to complete: Two hours

Many of us jump in a car when it's time to go out. The chemical energy stored in gasoline is released through combustion in the engine. The chemical energy is converted to kinetic energy, or energy due to movement as your car drives down the road to your next engagement. For more information on energy conversions before we get started, you can check out this lesson: Types of Energy Conversions.

Today, we're going to be building a different type of car. Instead of using a combustion engine to harness stored chemical energy, we're going to be using the elastic potential energy stored in a mouse trap to create kinetic energy to power our car. If you need a refresher on elastic potential energy before we start, you can watch the lesson Elastic Potential Energy: Definition, Formula & Examples.

Materials

  • 4 CDs
  • 4 rubber bands
  • Mousetrap
  • 20 inches of ribbon
  • 3 wooden skewers
  • Eye hook
  • Wire cutters
  • 4 zip ties
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Four 1 inch pieces of plastic straw
  • Duct tape
  • Hot glue
  • Thick cardboard 10 inches long by 3.5 inches wide
  • Precision knife

Steps

1. First, remove the lever arm from the mousetrap.

Remove the lever arm from the bed of the mouse trap first
lever arm

Safety Tip!! Get an adult to help you cut the mousetrap. Wire cutters and the resulting cut wire are sharp.

2. Use the wire cutters to cut about 1'' off of the lever arm of the mouse trap.

3. Use the wire cutters to cut an 8'' piece of skewer.

4. Attach the skewer to the lever arm using two zip ties. Trim excess plastic from the zip ties with the scissors.

5. Cover the connection between the skewer and the lever arm with duct tape to further secure it.

6. Now it's time to construct the base. Measure one inch in from either end of the 3.5'' side of the cardboard and draw a triangle. Cut out the triangle with the precision knife to make a notch for the lever arm.

7. Align your mousetrap so that when the lever arm is extended it reaches through the notch.

8. Using duct tape, adhere your mousetrap to the base in this position. Add two zip ties over top of the mousetrap to further secure it and trim the excess plastic away with scissors.

9. Cut two skewers to 5'' long.

10. Attach the eye hook to the center of one of the skewers using duct tape so that the hook is parallel to the skewer.

11. Thread two pieces of straw on either end of the skewer with the hook. Tape the straws on either side of the notch cut at the back of the base.

12. Thread the other two pieces of plastic straw on your other skewer and adhere them to the base at the front of the car. These two skewers are your axels.

13. Wrap a rubber band around each CD for traction on the tires

Safety Tip!! Hot glue can burn your skin. Use caution.

14. Hot glue each CD to either side of the skewers to make the wheels.

15. Secure one end of the ribbon to the lever arm skewer using duct tape.

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