Ohio Resource Center
Content Supports
Building a Better Mousetrap Car
Discipline
Science
6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Professional Commentary

Students build a mousetrap car as a means to explore the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy. The design goal is to build a mousetrap car, powered only by the release of a mousetrap spring, that covers a flat distance of 5-meters in the shortest amount of time. This activity could be incorporated into a larger lesson on energy and/or forces and motion. The Teetering to Victory video referenced in the overview can be found at Scientific American's Frontiers Games Machines Play. (author/ts)

Collections Containing This Resource

Ohio Science Academic Content Standards (2002)
Physical Sciences
Benchmarks (6–8)
B.
In simple cases, describe the motion of objects and conceptually describe the effects of forces on an object.
D.
Describe that energy takes many forms, some forms represent kinetic energy and some forms represent potential energy; and during energy transformations the total amount of energy remains constant.
Benchmarks (9–10)
D.
Explain the movement of objects by applying Newton's three laws of motion.
E.
Demonstrate that energy can be considered to be either kinetic (motion) or potential (stored).
2.
Describe how an object can have potential energy due to its position or chemical composition and can have kinetic energy due to its motion.
4.
Explain how energy can change forms but the total amount of energy remains constant.
3.
Explain that an unbalanced force acting on an object changes that object's speed and/or direction.
12.
Explain how an object's kinetic energy depends on its mass and its speed (KE = ½mv2).
21.
Demonstrate that motion is a measurable quantity that depends on the observer's frame of reference and describe the object's motion in terms of position, velocity, acceleration and time.
22.
Demonstrate that any object does not accelerate (remains at rest or maintains a constant speed and direction of motion) unless an unbalanced (net) force acts on it.
23.
Explain the change in motion (acceleration) of an object. Demonstrate that the acceleration is proportional to the net force acting on the object and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. (Fnet = ma. Note that weight is the gravitational force on a mass.)
Science and Technology
Benchmarks (6–8)
B.
Design a solution or product taking into account needs and constraints (e.g., cost, time, trade-offs, properties of materials, safety, aesthetics).
Benchmarks (9–10)
A.
Explain the ways in which the processes of technological design respond to the needs of society.