Mouse Trap Car
To construct a car powered solely by the energy of one standard-
sized mousetrap that will travel the greatest linear distance.
The car works when one end of a string is tied to the arm of the
mousetrap and the other end is wound around an axle. When
winding the string around the axle, the mousetrap’s spring is
stretched providing stored energy. As the mousetrap is released, it pulls the string off
the axle causing the wheels to turn and making the car move.
1. The device must be powered by a single standard-sized
mousetrap. Not a rat trap.
2. The mousetrap cannot be physically altered except for the
a. Up to four holes may be drilled in the mousetrap for the purpose of
attaching it to the car.
b. A lever may be attached to the spring mechanism to attach the string.
3. The spring cannot be physically altered in any way.
4. The spring cannot be wound more than its normal travel distance (180°).
5. Wheels must be constructed from something not originally intended to be
6. The car cannot have any additional potential or kinetic energy at the start other
than that stored in the
7. Cars must be self-starting.
They may not be pushed in any
8. The vehicle must travel in a
straight line for a minimum of 5
9. The car that travels the
greatest distance in each class
period, will receive a bonus of ten points on the grade.
10. The car is due and must be completed and brought to your class period on
Tuesday, February 1, to avoid a 20 point deduction. If you are present any part
of that day and do not bring in your car, you will receive the deduction. If the
car is still not turned in on February 2, you will receive an additional 20 point
deduction and 10 points a day thereafter.
11. Cars will go through their trials on February 2.
12. This is a test grade.
13. Remember to record all appropriate data in your lab journal.
Additional Requirements for Pre-AP Physics
(Answer/complete the following questions/instructions. This portion of the
assignment will count for 30% of the total grade.)
1. What are two types of friction that affect the performance of your car?
2. What problems related to friction did you encounter and how did you solve
3. How many wheels does your car have? What factors did you take into account
to decide the number of wheels?
4. What kind of wheels did you use on each axle? What was the effect of using
large or small wheels?
5. Explain how Newton’s first, second, and third laws apply to
the performance of the car.
6. Discuss the effect of the length of the lever arm in the
performance of the car.
7. Discuss how the length of the lever arm is related to the
power output of the car.
8. How does the distribution of the weight of the car affect the
traction of the wheels?
9. Discuss the major problems encountered in the performance of your car and
what you did to solve them.
10. Calculate two of the following values. Include all data, measurements, and
methods used to determine the value. Keep in mind that some of these will
require data to be collected when we do the trials in class.
a. Average momentum.
b. Force generated by the car.
c. Average kinetic energy.
d. IMA of either the drive wheel and axle or the lever arm.
Since this portion of the assignment will require gathering data in class, the written
report will be due on Thursday, February 3.