Project Sheet

Mouse Trap Car Grand Prix

The HTH North County Physics 5.00 x 102

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it (and I suggest that you do since this is a major project), is to build a race car that is power solely by a mousetrap. I will supply your group with a mouse trap, so as to put everyone on an equal playing field. You will be judge in 5 categories:

  • Design: Did you stay within the design specifications.
  • Velocity: The car must have a velocity greater then 0.0 m/s when under its on power.
  • Distance: The car must go at least 1.0 meters when under its own power.
  • Efficiency: We will calculate efficiency using the ratio mass/distance
  • Creativity: Extra points will be rewarded for the most creatively design cars, as judged by your peers.

EXTRA POINTS will be awarded to the top car in each category.



  • November 6: Planning Day. brainstorm ideas, set up team
    • Deadline: Hand in the completed planning page
  • November 7: Design Day. Spend time on the internet researching design ideas as will as determining materials to be used.
    • Deadline: Show Mr Ryska a completed supply list
  • November 12: Create a detailed design of your vehicle.
    • Deadline: Present to Mr. Ryska your design plan using the “Design Sheet” as your guide
  • November 12-14: Bring supplies to class. You will need to bring a box to hold your supplies and your car during this project. When you have brought all you supplies you can begin the construction of your car.
  • November 18-21: Building Phase: you will be given time throughout this week to work on the building of your car.
  • December 1-5: Time Trials, Tweaking, Judging, and Racing. Exact due date will be announced
    • Deadline: on race day the following will be handed in:
      • Pre-Race Data Sheet
      • Race Day Data Sheet
      • Personal and Team Grade Sheet


Design Specifications

  • The car may be no longer, wider, or taller then 1 meter.
  • The car CANNOT be build from a purchased kit



Materials can vary; this list is just an example of what your group may need:

  • Mousetrap
  • Body of the car: wood scraps, balsa wood, craft sticks, foam, coat hanger wire
  • Car axles: dowel rods, metal tubes, coat hangar wire
  • Wheels: various metal lids, wheels from old toys, CD’s
  • Pull cord: String, fishing line
  • Tools: pliers, hammers, handsaws, drills
  • Super glue
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Old ball bearings (from old roller blades or skates)
  • Rubber bands or ballons
  • Various kinds of tape (transparent, masking, duct)


  1. Your group will be creating a car that is propelled by a mousetrap.  You must first decide if your car will be racing for speed or distance.


  1. Before you begin construction of your car, discuss some of the following aspects of your car with your group.  Create a sketch of the design you decide on.
  1. Propulsion:   Transferring energy is quite simple.  You can start by attaching a dowel rod to the arm of the mousetrap.  Tie a string to the end of the dowel and then wrap the other end around one of the car’s axles.  When the mousetrap is released, it pulls the string and propels the car.  Try varying the length of the rod to increase speed or distance.
  1. Chassis:   The chassis is the body of your car.  It will hold the mousetrap and the axles.  You need to decide on a shape that is aerodynamic and lightweight.  You must decide what the chassis will be made out of and how you will shape it.
  1. Axles:   The axles of your car should be lightweight, but strong.  To make them turn freely, use bearings that are attached to the chassis of your car.  Be careful not to get any glue on the face of the ball bearing!
  1. Wheels:   Old CDs make great wheels.  Try stretching a rubber band around the edge to give them added traction.
  1. Pullcord:   Your pullcord must be strong so the force put on it by the mousetrap does not break it.
  1. Alignment:   If your mousetrap car steers to one side, your speeds and distances won’t be very good.  Be sure your wheels remain aligned.
  1. Once your group has a sketch, show it to your teacher and explain how your car will work.  Listen to any suggestions your teacher may have, and if necessary, modify your design.


  1. Begin construction of your car!  Be especially careful with the tools and glue!


  1. Once your car is complete, fill in the pre-race data sheet.


  1. When time and your teacher permits, do three trial runs with your mousetrap car.   Fill in the Test Day Data Sheet.  If possible, make changes to your car.  Note them on the Data Sheet.


  1. When you have completed the construction and testing of your mousetrap car, complete the Mousetrap Car Question sheet.


  1. On race day, compete against the other teams in your class.   Good Luck!
  1. Finally, each of you will fill out the assigned grade sheets, giving yourself the grade you deserve and the grade your teammates have earned.

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