Honors physics students build the perfect mousetrap… powered car?


Honors physics students build the perfect mousetrap… powered car?

March 20, 2024

Students in Gina Scarpulla’s Honors Physics class at WVHS have been studying kinetic and potential energy, and in order to see how these two different types of energy work in action, they worked together on mousetrap-powered cars. The class has been working on designing and building their projects for the past five weeks, adding to their mousetraps with materials such as wooden dowels, foam and cardboard, even compact discs. They had to delve deeply into their knowledge of the laws of physics and the concepts behind simple machines to conceptualize and engineer their vehicles.

Their main challenge: Create a vehicle utilizing the mousetrap as its body and main power source, that would be able to travel five meters or more. And that meant on a flat surface; no push or ramp to get started. There were also time constraints on how long the vehicle could take to travel the requisite five meters.


“Designing took a while because I had to come up with an idea that wasn’t going to have a lot of flaws,” said Michael Miller, a junior in the class. “It came out pretty good. We didn’t have to make a lot of changes.”

After building their cars, students participated in trials to see how successful their designs were. 

“There was one main thing we had to change from how we originally built it,” said Brody Frederick, also a junior. “The original holes didn’t fit the bearings, so we had to change that.” 

Over the course of three trials, each team tested their cars to see how fast they would go. Some students’ cars passed the mark in six seconds, while others took longer. If a car didn’t reach the five meter mark, the students would go back to the drawing board, which is an essential part of the engineering design process. 

The student engineers said they enjoy the testing and retesting stages, and seeing how the changes they make help them get closer to their goals.


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Comments are closed.