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DATE: 15/12/2014













A mousetrap car is a vehicle that is designed to work exclusively with the
force from a mousetrap. Different designs enables the cars to either travel
fast or a greater distance. In this project, the groups in our class had to
design and construct a mousetrap that is efficiently built for great distance.
We will see how different designs and variations effect the car and explain
the design we created.

This activity enables us to bring out our creative yet logical thinking to
construct a mousetrap car based on the principle of Hookes Law. Using our
previous knowledge from the chapter we can research and design a car
powered by the spring of a mousetrap.

The power source

The power source of the car is indeed
the spring on the mousetrap car. The
spring propels the hammer, which
causes an enormous release of energy.
The hammer is connected to a string
that is wound around the drive the
hammer is connected to a string that is
wound around the drive axle. The string unwinds as the hammer snaps
making the car roll!




Mousetrap car designs over the years have become quite innovative and complex.
These cars can be built in many shapes and sizes. The smaller cars are design to
add speeds to the car and long cars are built for greater distance. Our objective in
this case is to build a car for distance. Here are some of the things we had to
consider when we built the car:
The body or frame: A frame is important for a mousetrap car because it provides
structural support for other parts such as wheels, axle and engine. In order for the
mousetrap to travel a long distance, a body with lightweight materials such as
wood, cardboard or Styrofoam is ideal.
The wheels: A wheel of mousetrap car is the main component to provide distance
or speed in the testing. The ideal wheels of the mousetrap car should be light
weight and aero dynamic, but strong enough to handle the force exerted from the
The lever: For a greater distance, the lever of the mousetrap car needs to be long,
in order for the string to weave around the axle longer.
The placement of the engine: The mousetrap placement is key for the car to
determine its speed or distance. The farther away the mousetrap is from the back
wheel, the greater distance it will run.
Axle: To avoid most friction the axle of the car needs to spin freely. Although,
friction cannot be completely eliminated, it is still important to have a good axle, to
ensure maximum efficiency.

Here we will explore the common design variations, in order for us to get the ideal
mousetrap for distance.
The 4 wheel leaner Design (left picture)


This design distributes most of its

weight forward, to generate a forward
momentum. It also maximizes stability
while in motion.

standard 4 wheel: design (right picture)
This design imitates the basic design of a 4 wheel
car. With this design, stability is really prioritized,
while the motion solely depends on the ability of
the axils and the wheel to rotate with as little
friction as possible. (The weight is distributed

The 3 wheel leaner design (picture below)

This design maximized the
rotation of the back wheel, in
order to cover as much distance
as possible with 1 rotation of the
wheel. It also generates a forward
momentum as the weight is
distributed at the front of the car.
However, this design lacks



We chose the 4 wheel leaner mouse
trap car design. The reason is because we
wanted to distinct the designs from the
other concepts, and still keeping its main
purpose in mind; to cover as much distance
as possible. With this design, most of the
weight is distributed on the front side.
When the car goes into motion, more
forward momentum will be generated.
Inspiration of our design
The primary inspiration for our car was based on a simplistic design of a
dragster. The dragster race care is primarily made for going in a straight line,
very quickly. Dragsters that run today use enormous amounts of power,
along with their aerodynamics, and light weight structure they can travel up
to speed of 250 mph. F1 cars were also another factor of our inspiration. We
played out the perfect weight to power ratio, and using these ideas we
created our mousetrap car. Hoping it would travel the distance with no
1. Body of the car:
We used a standard wood material, which is usually used on
dressers/shelves, that is cut into a long strip-shape. The reason we did this
was to allow a reasonable amount of space for the other key features of the
car, as well as to provide stability (as the mousetraps goes into motion) while
the car and the mousetrap runs simultaneously.
2. Wheels:


a. Front wheel: We used two toy trucks wheels that is about a quarter of
size compared to CDs. The reason we chose these wheels is because we
want to stabilize the front side of the car as much as
possible (since it affects the steering the most), in
order to steer the car as straight as possible
b. Back wheel: We used 4 CDs in total, with 2 CDs
connected parallel with bottle caps for each side. The
reason we did this was in order to minimize weight on
the back side of the car, while maximizing stability (so the CD does not
wobble in motion).
3. Mousetrap design/position:
Our actual mousetrap is located at the front side of
the car (behind the front wheel axis). We did this
with the intention of distributing the weight to the
front of the car (to generate more forward
momentum as the car is in motion). The design of
our mousetrap includes an extension using a firm
rod, connected to the mousetrap arms, which
provides extra leverage in transferring the potential energy into the motion
of the back wheel (it allows a greater length of string to be attached to the
mousetrap from the back wheel axis.
4. Aerodynamics:
Considering the aerodynamics of our design,
we cut the front of the body of the car into a
V shape, in order to distribute air to the sides
of the car (so it does not become a drag
force that opposes the motion of the car),
therefore making our car design,





Considering all factors of the car such as weight, design, aerodynamics, etc.
we hypothesized that the car should at least run around a distance of 20 m.
When we first tested our car, unofficially, our reached a distance of around
18 m. Although this may not be the ideal distance we were aiming for, it was
still enough to boost our confidence for the official test done by the teacher.
Reasons why we thought it could run 20 m:
1. The car weighed less than 200 g.
2. The car aerodynamic design should be able to cut the air like a knife
through butter.
3. The weight to power ratio was significantly efficient, and it should
deliver a good distance.
4. The front wheel was smaller than the back wheel.
5. Also, when we tested it the first time it ran around 18 m.

The results:
On the day of the final test, we were told to prepare our car by winding it and
start from the first lines. The track was set up with tape being the lines and
each with a distance of 5 m apart. Our goal was to reach the fourth line
which was a great distance 20 m. As soon as our turn was called our car
broke down and one of the back wheel completely collapsed because of the
significant amount of force. As we tried gluing it at the last moment, it was
fixed but very unstable as it was not parallel with the other wheel and axle.
Anyways when we called down the second time, we let our go and hoping it
would not drift too much. In the end our car went distance of around 15
meters, but it also had a deviation of around 3 meters.
As we were disappointed in our efforts to save the car, we were kind of
pleased, since the car at least went a good 15 m, with the back off again.


That day we learned that we always have prepare for the worst of disasters,
and never lose hope in making something better.


Perhaps the single most important concept to understand in order to build a
mousetrap powered vehicle is the concept of energy. Energy is defined as having
the ability to do work and work is the displacement of an object that result in
something being done. Energy can be classified in a number of ways but most
commonly energy is classified as potential and kinetic. The energy that is stored
and/or held in readiness is called potential energy (PE). For example, a stretched or
compressed spring has the potential to do work. Kinetic energy (KE) is energy of
motion or the energy a moving object has.


The formula for work
done by the car,
where F is the force
and d is the distance.

F = -kx
the force [f] of a stretched/compressed spring is equal to the
spring constant [k] times the distance [x] the spring is
stretched/compressed. Force is measured in newtons, the spring
constant in newtons per meters, and distance in meters.

ETotal = PE + KE + W

PE = (1/2) kx2

the total energy of any system is the sum

the potential energy [pe] of a stretched/compressed

of the potential energy, the kinetic energy,

spring is equal to one-half the spring constant [k] times

work lost to heat and sound, and any work

the distance [x] stretched/compressed squared. Potential

done to overcome friction. All energy is

energy is measured in joules, the spring constant in

measured in joules.

newtons per meter, and the distance in meters.

In this project, the motion of the car is the product of an unbalanced force, which is
applied by the mousetrap. Use of a long lever arm attaches to the bar of the
mousetrap, and uses string twin to the back axle of the car. Then the spring-loaded
bar swings down slowly, and drive the axle spins, as well as the rear wheels rotate
to the whole car move forward. The main reason to cause it ceases to be the
friction. The frictional force exists between two objects, and it resists sliding or
rolling of an object over another. The friction between the axle and the holder and
even the air to stop the car keeps moving. Reduce the rub between axle and axis


help the car keeps moving after the spring runs out. However, the friction is
necessary, the wheels cannot push the car to move forward without it, but too large
will cause the car stop, too. As the equation of F f = Fn, the weight of whole car is
equal to the normal force, where is unchanged, so that less weight provides less
friction. Back to the beginning, the mousetrap has stored all the energy in its really
heavy spring. The law of conservation of energy describes that the total energy is
remaining constant. Energy cannot be either generated or destroyed. So that most
of energy contained in the spring transferred to move the car, and some lost. And
the earlier lab shows the potential energy stored in the spring is about 0.84 J. And
the Hookes law says that the force to extend it by some distance, x, is proportional
to that distance, which is F=-kx, where k is force constant, therefore more bend the
spring is has more force, bend the arm as close to the axle will provide more force
to drive the car.

Other Concepts:
Releasing the spring energy slowly, by way of larger drive wheels, has two key
advantages. The first advantage is that it prevents slipping of the drive wheel on
the ground/floor as the car accelerates. The second advantage is that the car takes
longer to gain speed (accelerate) which results in it traveling farther than a car that
gains speed faster. To understand this, consider the following energy equation,
which equates the stored spring energy to the kinetic energy gained by the car:
Uspring = (1/2)mV2, where Uspring is the spring energy, m is the mass of the car, and V
is the velocity of the car right after the spring has released all its energy. However,
it is worth mentioning that this equation is an approximation, for two reasons: First,
it assumes that there are no friction losses. Secondly, it doesn't account for the
rotational motion of the wheels. This equation assumes that the mousetrap car is a
fully rigid object. But as it turns out, these assumptions don't change the form of the
energy equation and therefore don't affect the validity of my next important point.
In the above equation, we see that V is always constant regardless of how fast the
car gains speed (keeping everything else the same). It follows that the car travels
farther the longer it takes to reach V. After the car reaches V it will coast until it
finally stops. But the coasting distance (after V is reached) will be roughly constant,
so the biggest influence on distance traveled on a flat surface is how long it takes
the car to gain speed.
The dominant forces on the incline are gravity and the spring force, and by
conservation of energy, the vertical distance traveled by the car can be
approximated by equating the stored spring energy to the gravitational potential
energy gained by the car. Mathematically, we can write Uspring = mgh, where g is
the acceleration due to gravity, which is 9.8 m/s2 on earth, and h is the vertical


distance traveled on the incline. Note that this equation is an approximation

because it assumes that there are no friction losses. Interestingly, we see from this
equation that the distance traveled up the incline does not depend on the drive
wheel diameter. This is true as long as the drive wheels are small enough so that
the spring force can turn the wheels throughout the range of motion of the spring
(as the car travels up the incline).


In summary, the reason why we designed our mousetrap car that way, is because
we wanted a car that can transfer as much of the potential energy as possible, into
kinetic energy, and also to maintain that kinetic energy, for as far of a distance as
possible. With this in mind, we designed a leaner car that transfer elastic potential
energy into a rotating motion of the back wheel, allowing the car to be in motion,
and as the car is in motion, our leaner design that generates forward momentum,
and distributes airflow to reduce air drag (that will slow it down) allows the car to
travel as much distance as possible.


To maximize the distance traveled on a flat
surface, the friction (internal and external) and
the weight of the car must be kept as small as
possible. Specifically, this means that:
All the components of the mousetrap car must
weigh as little as possible, while being strong
enough for use in the car. This can be
accomplished by removing unnecessary material,
such as by drilling holes in the components such
as the frame and wheels.
The wheels must be rigid and thin to minimize rolling resistance with the floor (or
ground). But the drive wheels must additionally provide enough traction so that
they don't slip when the car is accelerating.
The frontal area of the car must be as small as possible to minimize air resistance.
Although this will be much less than rolling resistance, every little bit helps.

In conclusion, although our mousetrap did not travel the distance we had expected,
and we need to make some key changes mentioned above, so the car to could run
more smother and further. In this lab we learned many things about energy,
conservation and forces applying them to many concept we learned throughout the


course. Overall, this summative was a fun and interesting way to wrap up the
course and it gave everyone an opportunity to experience the reality of being
creative and innovative.