Introducing kids to physics can start as early as we begin to experiment with the concepts! How about talking about energy transfer and kinetic energy while designing, constructing and experimenting with a homemade mousetrap car?!
Copernicus Academy brought a little bit of physics to the Mueller Farmers Market on Sunday with this very activity! Kids built their own mousetrap cars and then raced them to their hearts’ delight towards oncoming pedestrians. Other kids experienced the opportunity to troubleshoot their designs and asked questions about why some parts worked better than others, and how to improve on their prototypes.
Kids learned that as the ribbon is wound, the potential energy stored in the spring of the mousetrap is being transferred to the wheel axel. Letting go of the axel after the ribbon is fully wound releases the spring, converting potential energy into kinetic energy. The spring pulls the ribbon and unwinds it, making the axle spin and this is what makes the car zoom away!
Check out this Copernicus Academy video to see our car in action, and learn how to make your very own mousetrap car (materials list below).
Here are the materials you’ll need. NOTE: Parent supervision highly recommended!
Small mousetrap, 4 CDS (or other recycled materials that could serve as wheels), 3.5”x10” cut Foam board (or other recycled material that is flat and light), 2 BBQ skewers, wire cutters, ruler, scissors, pencil, x-acto blade, string or ribbon, tape, 1 straw, cardboard cut into 1.5” diameter circles, plastic ties.