Astonishing Science. Spectacular museum.
In this activity you can make a drag racer, powered by a mousetrap, which stores then releases energy. Year groups: 7-9 (ages 11-14)
Energy harnessed from a snapping mousetrap or twisted elastic band can be used to move a car. The more effectively an energy store is run down, the faster and further the car can travel.
Mousetrap Drag Racer
Download student activity sheet [pdf]
Mousetrap Drag Racer activity template
Download cut-out template sheet [pdf]
Working with mousetraps has some important health and safety implications, but it is an activity that is routinely used in American schools in classes of students as young as 8 years old. Use elastic bands if you have concerns over mouse traps.
This activity should not require students to set or release the trap directly. The trap is set by turning the wheels and the energy is later released in a controlled way.
Glue the template onto the second sheet of card to give extra strength before folding the design to creade the body of the racer.
Wearing safety goggles when building and launching the mousetrap cars will help protect the students’ eyes from whipping strings or broken equipment.
NB: Do not use rat traps, which are even stronger and could potentially break a finger if sprung accidentally.
For a more inquiry-based activity, challenge the students to make a car that uses a mousetrap or elastic band to power it along a 5 metre track. Decide if you want to limit their materials or give them a free rein. Consider ‘pricing’ each material and get them to design their car within a set budget. Click here for a guide to planning open-ended investigations in your classroom.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
As you nervously climb the steps or sit in the car as it’s winched up the track, you are gaining potential energy. The moment the car starts to move downwards, under the influence of gravity and the roller coaster’s motor, you experience kinetic energy.
Key Stage 3:
This activity encourages practical enquiry skills in the area of ‘Energy, electricity and forces’, specifically: