Mousetrap Cars

| Project Description | Objectives/Standards | Timeline | Materials | Assessment |

Project Description:

Link to QT Movie In this project, students design and construct a vehicle which uses a single mousetrap as its sole source of propulsion. The vehicle should be designed for distance. In doing so, the students must manipulate simple machines to achieve a reasonable product.


  1. Only one mousetrap may used as the sole source of propulsion.
  2. The spring of the mousetrap may not be altered in any way (This is a safety precaution. Winding the spring tighter can result in the spring breaking.)
  3. The mousetrap must move forward with the vehicle. The mousetrap cannot be used to launch a toy car or other object to the required distance. It must be part of the vehicle.


The objective of this project is to expose students to concepts of simple machines, forces, and Newton’s Laws of Motion.


The majority of the work should be completed out of class (6-8 weeks). One class period should be used to introduce the activity. One to two class periods will be needed to test the devices. A practice/workshop day is highly recommended halfway through the project.


Construction Materials-The students should supply materials to fit their own design. Some materials they may wish to have are the following:
Photo of Materials
  • one mousetrap
  • string
  • rubber bands
  • material for axles (dowel rods, all thread, ice cream push up axles--see helpful hints, etc...)
  • wheels (lids, compact disks, records, butter tub lids etc...)

Testing Materials:

The assessment portion of this project will be based on three items:
  1. Quality and originality of design-A small portion of the student's grade should be based on the overall quality of the finished mousetrap car. This will reward students who invest more time in planning, drawing, and building the project.

  2. Performance Score-Each student's vehicle will be tested according to the distance traveled. The scale used to assess the students performance should reflect the teachers individual expectations. The following is an example of a possible scale:
    Distance Criteria Example:
    A--10 meters distance
    B--8 meters distance
    C--6 meters distance
    D--4 meters distance
    (Awarding Bonus points for distances over ten meters is recommended.)

  3. The paper-Each student's paper should be graded based on the the explanation of the car and how the car works. Specific questions about the science behind the car should be included in the paper. (Sample paper template.)

Horizontal Rule

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