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Mousetrap Report

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Mouse-Trap Vehicle Practical


        To build a mousetrap vehicle, from a kit of parts, then perform in a race against other team vehicles.


  1. To design and build a high-performance (high speed) vehicle based upon fundamental principles of mechanics.
  1. To Determine the most successful design from the results of a race against other vehicle designs
  1. Calculate the performance of a theoretical vehicle and describe differences that exist between theory and practise.

Background Knowledge:

        Building a mouse-trap for speed…

A vehicle built for speed releases its energy quickly or at a high power output. This means the acceleration is proportional to its energy release, which is high/large. Below are some of the ways in which greater acceleration can be obtained.

  • Using a short lever arm
  • Having a large wheel to small axle ratio
  • Light weight body
  • Low rotational inertia (wheels)
  • Good traction

Using a short or long lever arm does not affect the amount of energy released from the trap, but does affect the rate at which the energy is released. Therefore having a small lever arm will produce greater acceleration; however having to short an arm will produce wheel spin. Long arms will therefore decrease the pulling power (acceleration)

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The constant k should be calculated using the trend line (change (y)/change (x)), which is shown below in the form y=mx+c


The trend line shown on the graph above using the points from the theoretical values gives the equation:


Based on the equation T=kθ+c the k and m (y=’m’x+c) values must be the same, Torque is on the y axis and theta on the x axis, therefore…


To work out the potential energy the θ value where torque is zero is needed. This can be worked out easily using T=kθ+c where T=0, k=0.22337 and c=0.20542.

0=0.22337θ+0.20542   image03.png   0.22337θ=-0.20542   image03.png   θ=-0.20542/0.22337


Now using the PE equation below you can work out potential energy with the theta values ranging from 0.91964 radians and 2.094+0.91964 radians (2.094 is the value at 120 degrees, at which the mousetrap has fully sprung) and with k=0.22337.


PE = 0.22337/2(3.014042-0.919642) = 0.920139141Nm

Assuming only 85% on the

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        If I were to build a car again I would spend more time working out the mechanics involved to insure the car is working to its full potential. Physically the wheels where the worst aspect of my car, they lacked traction and the balloons where constantly breaking and slipping. Originally to gain more power I twisted the spring round one more revolution, but did not calculate that we would need a considerable amount more traction on the wheels. This was soon observed after our first race where the majority of our power was in the form of wheel spin.


[On-line] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_energy [Accessed 29/3/2007]

[On-line] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potential_energy [Accessed 29/3/2007]

[On-line] http://www.glenbrook.k12.il.us/gbssci/phys/class/newtlaws/u2l1b.html [Accessed 25/3/2007]

[On-line] http://www.hypography.com/topics/mousetrapcar.cfm [Accessed 10/2/2007]

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