Mouse Trap Vehicle

  • Challenge:

    Build a vehicle powered solely by the energy of one standard-sized mouse trap that will travel the greatest linear distance using the materials and equipment provided.



    • Use problem solving and critical thinking skills to design a mouse trap powered vehicle.
    • Apply math and science skills to solve mathematical problems:
      • How friction affects the performance of the vehicle
      • Matter in motion and how it can be used to improve your vehicle
      • How to apply the concept of strength to improve the design of your frame while lowering its weight
      • Distribution of mass and its positive and negative effect on acceleration and deceleration of a vehicle
    • Use brainstorming and collaborative learning strategies to develop team work skills
    • Use modeling materials, rapid prototyping machine, and various hand tools to construct an operational scale model
    • Use CAD to design structural elements for a model vehicle

     Background Information:

    A mousetrap-powered vehicle is powered be the energy of a wound up mousetrap’s spring.  The most basic design is as follows: one end of a string is tied to the tip of a lever arm that is attached to the mousetrap’s arm.  The other end of the string has loop that is designed to “catch” a hook attached to a drive axle.  Once the loop is placed over the axle hook, the string is wound around the drive axle by turning the wheels in the opposite direction to the vehicles intended motion.  As the string is wound around the axle, the mousetrap's lever arm is pulled closer to the drive axle causing the mousetrap’s spring to store energy.  When the drive wheels are released, the string is pulled off the drive axle by the mousetrap causing the wheels to rotate and propelling the vehicle forward.



    • By definition, a vehicle is a device with wheels or runners used to carry something, (e.g., car, bus, bicycle or sled). Therefore, the entire vehicle must be must be moved in order to be scored
    • The device must be powered by a single mouse trap (Provided)
    • The mousetrap cannot be physically altered except for the following: holes can be drilled only to mount the mousetrap to the frame of the vehicle.
    • The device cannot have any additional potential or kinetic energy at the start other than what can be stored in the mousetrap's spring itself. (This means that you cannot push/kick your vehicle.)
    • The spring from the mousetrap cannot be altered.
    • The spring cannot be wound more than its normal travel distance or 180 degrees.
    • The vehicle must steer itself. Measurements of distance will not measure the total distance traveled only the displacement distance.
    • Distance will be measured from the front of the tape at the starting line to the point of the vehicle that was closest to the start line at the time of release.
    • Only approved materials may be used in the construction of the vehicle.


    • Hardboard – 24” x 18” X 3/16”
    • 1 Mousetrap
    • 1 Solid Wire piece - 1/8" in dia
    • Brass Tube – 2”
    • Fishing Line
    • Masking Tape – 1” X 12”
    • Rubber Bands (2)
    • Hot glue
    • 10/32 x .75" bolts (4)
    • 10/32 nuts (4)
    • #8 washers (4)

    Time Line:

    • Day 1: Introduction to design challenge, begin internet research
    • Day 2: Complete internet research begin design process
    • Day 3: Complete design process and selection of final vehicle design
    • Day 4: Begin CAD drawings
    • Day 5: Complete CAD drawings and begin rapid prototyping process
    • Day 6: Complete rapid prototyping and begin construction of vehicle
    • Day 7:  Complete construction of vehicle and begin testing of vehicle
    • Day 8: Continue testing and improvement of vehicle design
    • Day 9: Final graded test of vehicles 
    • Day 10: Complete project reflection

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