Mouse trap cars are simple contraptions that could be built using ordinary household items. With a person’s understanding of the fundamental laws of Physics or even just and idea of how the forces of nature act on everyday items, one can construct his or her very own mousetrap car.
It’s a simple vehicle with a mouse trap as its primary source of propulsion. The potential energy stored within the spring of the snapper is converted into kinetic energy which will cause a chain reaction along the parts of the device. This chain reaction will result in multiple changes and transformations of energies from it’s potential state. In the end, these transformations of energy and the chain reactions taking place among the parts of the car will cause the vehicle to displace itself from its starting point. What is impressive about this car is that it’s a purely mechanical device that moves without the use combustible fuel or electricity.
Now, you might be thinking how this machine works exactly and what forces and energies take part in the car’s activities.
First of all, the contraption must be made up of four wheels, two axles, either a solid base or a ladder type base, a string and of course, a mouse trap. These parts could be made up of various materials. There is no standard material or make for any of the parts mentioned but it would be more efficient to use light weight components.
Now, these materials must be assembled to look like a car. The mousetrap sits on the base, while on the two far ends of the base, you add the axles. The common practice for putting the axle is by drilling two parallel holes on both ends of the base. When the axles are in place, attach the wheels on each end of the axles. Then you can tie one end of the string on the mouse trap’s lever arm while the other end is coiled around the rear axle. By releasing the snapper, it will pull the string which will in turn, rotate the axle that will spin the wheels resulting in the movement of the car.
That’s basically how the car is made and how the mouse trap is designed to propel the car.
When the stored energy in the spring of the mousetrap was released, it moved the lever arm, transforming the potential energy into kinetic energy. Since the string was tied to the mouse trap’s snapper, the snapper applied a pulling force on it (string). This pulling force will cause the axle to turn and by turning the axle, the wheels, which were attached to the axle would rotate. If the wheels have enough traction, and less rotational inertia, the wheels will travel or move towards the opposite direction of the rotational force. Since the wheel is attached to the axle, the axle move towards the same direction as the wheel and since the axle is attached to the base of the car, the axle, will apply a pushing force to the base of the mousetrap car causing the whole vehicle to displace.
It’s amusing to find that such a simple gadget is influenced by these many forces that makes the whole process seem so complicated. Perhaps that is the reason why a lot of people have become enthusiastic about the car and have been hobbyists of mouse trap cars.
There are countless possibilities in terms of improvements and enhancements in the field of mousetrap car making. You could design a mouse trap car that is built for speed or a mousetrap car that is designed to displace to a large distance. With simple additions and modifications to the parts or to the material of the car, there is a possibility that its performance may either improve or worsen.
Mousetrap cars are truly magnificent simple machines. It will stimulate your mind as well as challenge your skills and knowledge of the natural sciences. This is a hobby that would be great not only for Physics students but for kids of all ages who wants to build, discover and learn.