Monday, February 10, 2014

Mousetrap Car Progression of Ideas

If there was only one project that I had to pick out as the best for learning basic principles of physics it would have to be the mousetrap car. No doubt in a large part because of the efforts of one man, Alden Balmer aka Doc Fizzix.  I purchased at least a couple of his kits and his book on mousetrap cars before trying to build any type of mousetrap car of my own design.

This project might appear so simple but I see many students struggle with it, using improper materials or sloppy workmanship will not give good results.  Recording data on motion I believe is much easier with a model that moves slowly in two-dimensional space compared to flying projects like model rockets or airplanes.

The Spring from the Mousetrap Powers the Car

My Mousetrap Car Design has been Built Around the World

In my progression of designing and teaching with mousetrap cars I have tried several ideas and materials but the objective has been to simplify the design while fixing any problem areas. My first couple of mousetrap cars were built from bamboo skewers which worked well but I felt this was too much structure for the students to build. The next mousetrap cars were built from balsa structure which worked well but I thought a foam chassis would be cheaper and a little less work. It seems that when projects have too many pieces the difference between the students that are faster in the construction and the slower builders gets greater.

For my next class with the mousetrap cars I plan to introduce the connection with Newton's Laws of Motion and the mousetrap cars. It would also be a good opportunity to introduce simple machines and the concept of mechanical advantage.

Bill Kuhl

The Evolution of My Mousetrap Car Design

Thank you to all those that have viewed my blog, no doubt by the end of the day it will be 30,000 views in less than a year. This inspires me to keep on writing.

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