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Mousetrap Car Technical Paper

Introduction & Theory

We were to build a car fully equipped with wheels, axles, a body, and a mousetrap that pushes
the car forward. This car is meant to go at least 5 meters and end with a final velocity of zero.
Understanding how a mousetrap can move a car forward really helps to figuring out other things that
function like the car. This labs purpose is to show the importance and occurrence of velocity in even the
smallest instances.

Car Construction
We take any materials that we had and/or gathered outside of school. With these materials we
built the car using two wooden axles from a stick that we sawed in half. With a small sliver of wood, we
attached the axles to it on the bottom. From there we took a longer stick and attached it to the handlebar
of the mousetrap. While pulling the handlebar back, we wrapped the fishing wire around the back axle
and this would pull the axle forward to push the car. This is what we did for the first trial. For the second
one, we werent allowed to use the mousetrap. We measured the force on the car down the ramp and got
the angle at which the ramp sat. We then timed it as is ran down the ramp and came to a stop. The first car
was too heavy and the stick along with the mousetrap handlebar couldnt take it and the car refused to
move. The small sliver of wood was the change we made to the first car that finally caused it to be able to
move forward.

Displacement from end of ramp (x)
Time (ramp test)
Angle of the ramp


Mass of car
Applied Force
Displacement from 0 mark (x)
Time (line test)

.75 N


Trial One
The Initial Velocity of our car.

x= ( V i +V f ) t

4.6 m=

V i +0
( 5.66 s )

V i=1.63


The acceleration of our car.

V f =V i +at

=1.63 +a ( 5.66 s )



Trial Two
Free Body Diagram of the car as it goes down the ramp.

Force of gravity on our car.

F g=mg
F g=(.225 kg)

F g=2.207 N
Normal Force on our car.

F N =mgcos

F N =( .225 kg ) 9.81

cos 22

F N =2.046 N
Coefficient of Friction.
Wood on rubber/plastic= .04
Force of friction for our car.

F k =k F N
F k =( .40 ) ( 2.046 N )
F k =.8184 N
Our cars acceleration coming off the ramp.

F net =ma

F N F k =ma
2.046 N.8184 N =( .225 kg ) a

1.2276 N =( .225 kg ) a



Line test Initial Velocity ( V i


Line test Acceleration ( a




Force of Gravity ( F g

2.207 N

Normal Force

2.046 N

Force of Friction ( F k

.8184 N

Acceleration coming off the ramp ( a



This experiment has taught us about velocity and its relationship to distance. The acceleration
was very small, which leads us to believe that the push on the car was very small. However, with the
loose wheels, they were able to go farther than the mousetrap initially pushed them because they were
able to move more freely without the high amount of friction. The acceleration on the ramp was greater
because the ramp itself included a faster gravity towards earth based of the height of it from the ground,
i.e. the angle. This is why gravity is more aggressive when things are farther from the ground. With the

earth being a sphere, then the gravity of it pulls towards the center. The more air space you have between
you and the surface of the earth gives gravity the leverage it needs to pull you. There are types of friction
that effect our car against the ground. They are kinetic friction and static friction. Kinetic friction deals
with the instance when something is moving and rubbing against something else. Static friction isnt the
opposite, but it is different. It is the resistance on two surfaces clashing, and it is how object stay still
without and applied force or a length to fall where gravity can pull it down. Our first car was heavier than
it shouldve been, so it didnt move at all. Changing the weight of the body of the car gave it what it
needed to move forward. With a heavier car, gravity contributed in the two surfaces rubbing together and
caused it to sit still. We didnt account for anything in deciding the number of wheels we shouldve used.
We just made a decision that four was easier to build rather than three. An example of rotational motion
can be the planets that revolve around the sun. Each planet turns slowly, but they all revolve around the
sun. The wheels of the car do spin around, but they dont spin around anything else. Rotational Motion
acts at the core of any object, but for this instance, the core stay in place and there is no revolution. For
the front wheels, we used wooden circles with balloons around them to get more traction, and on the back
we used lids to peanut jars that had little grooves in them for grip. With larger wheels, the larger diameter
can contribute to the ground that you cover, but small wheels can go faster because of the rounds per
minute. Newtons First Law of Motion applies to this experiment because of friction. The car would keep
rolling if friction wasnt applied, so the car wouldve stayed in motion if it wasnt for friction. Newtons
Second Law applies because all of the forces together equal the mass multiplied by the acceleration.
Newtons third law applies because for each bit of normal force, gravity opposes it and it is able to roll
across the floor, and go down the ramp. The kinematic equations cant be used to solve for acceleration on
the ramp because the ramp is placed at an angle, and the equations dont deal with gravity. We set the
final velocity to zero because we stopped out time when the car came to a stop. As I mentioned before,
the first car we built was too heavy and refused to move, so we took the parts we wanted and changed the
body to a lighter piece of wood.

When the car was pushed forward, friction was pulling it back, gravity was pushing it down, and
the string attached to the axle was applying force enough to make it move. Each element of force is
needed for this car to be in motion. They are all important. This experiment effectively shows the
application and importance of each force. Creating a mechanism as this one teaches the engineering of
contraptions like this one. This experiment also shows the reason for each kinematic equation, and laws of