How to Build a Mousetrap Car for Science Class

Updated on February 14, 2018
Teresa Coppens profile image

I worked for many years as a science teacher in Toronto, Ontario, and now am an occasional teacher working in the local school board.

My eldest son has come home twice now with instructions from a teacher to build a mousetrap car. There is a lot on the internet that provides video and instructions. The following is the result of the modifications made to various designs seen and improvements made from the first try to the most recent version of this vehicle. A warning: mousetraps are delicate instruments of death to the unwary mouse. Even following the instructions given may result in fingers being snapped accidentally and it will hurt. Slow and steady, as they say, wins the race. Following these instructions but working slowly and carefully and having an extra body around for assistance should reduce or eliminate finger or other bodily damage!

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Source
Source

Assemble Materials for your Mousetrap Car

  • mousetrap
  • four eye hooks
  • two pencils
  • pliers
  • 4 CD's or DVD's
  • 4 pop can tabs
  • electrical tape
  • fishing wire
  • drill
  • wire cutters

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Step 1 and 2Step 2
Step 1 and 2
Step 1 and 2 | Source
Step 2
Step 2

Step by Step Instructions for Assembling your Mousetrap Car

1. Drill two shallow holes on each of the short ends of the mousetrap about ½ inch in from each end.

2. Screw in the eye hooks, one into each hole. Make sure the eye hooks are level by placing each short end of the mousetrap against a hard cover book.

Steps 3 and 4
Steps 3 and 4

3. Using wire cutters, cut the square snap bar where it attaches to the middle bar to the right of the mouse (red V). This step will give greater leverage and greater potential energy when launching the vehicle.

4. Using pliers, straighten the bar so it is parallel to the long side of the mousetrap.

Step 5
Step 5

5. Cut the tops of two pop can tabs (where they attach to the can). Bend the cut tabs in slightly. These bent-in tabs will be used to grip the pencil in step 10.

Steps 6, 7, and 8
Steps 6, 7, and 8

6. Fit a pencil through a pop tab, both eye hooks, and the second pop tab. Center the pencil and mark each side of the pencil about 1 to 1½ inches out from each eye hook.

7. Wrap electrical tape carefully around the pencil at the mark. Position the CD hole over the tape periodically and stop wrapping when the CD will fit snugly onto the wrapped tape.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the other short side of the mousetrap but make sure the interior axle-length of this side is longer than created in Steps 6 and 7.

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Step 9Step 10Step 11
Step 9
Step 9
Step 10
Step 10
Step 11
Step 11

9. Drill a hole through the center of the pencil (on the 'mouse' side of the mousetrap).

10. Make sure the pop tabs are very close to the eye hooks and then pinch the cut ends of the pop tabs to the pencil to keep the pencil (axle) from shifting side ways. Bend the tabs away from the eye hooks if necessary to allow the pencil to rotate freely. Make sure the pencil can rotate freely. Repeat this step with the other two pop tabs for the opposite axle.

11. Using pliers, straighten the bar from the point it meets the top of the mousetrap towards the inside so it will not interfere with the motion of either wheel.

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Step 13Step 14
Step 13
Step 13
Step 14
Step 14

12. Measure the fishing wire from the tip of the bar to about two inches past the tip of the mouse's nose.

13. If you have not already done so, remove the straight bar anchored at the tip of the mouse's nose.

14. Cover the edges of the back wheels (mouse points to these!) with electrical tape to reduce slippage at take-off.

15. Slip the fishing wire through the hole drilled through the pencil in Step 9 and knot it securely.

16. Make a loop at the top of the straight bar.

17. Tie the other end of the fishing wire to the loop at the top of the bar and secure it with electrical tape.

Launching the Mousetrap Car

1. Rotate the back wheels slowly to wrap the fishing line around the axle (pencil) until the line is taut.

2. Pull back the bar and continue winding again until the wire is taut (potential energy for the vehicle is obtained in these steps).

3. Hold onto the back wheels and place the car onto smooth ground in an area where there is ample room (at least 20 feet of horizontal distance).

4..Let go of the wheels and watch your car speed away.

5. If the car does not travel in a straight line, adjustments must be made. Check the pop tabs to make sure the axles cannot move from side to side. Ensure that the axles are aligned properly. If you did not ensure that the eye hooks were level with each other your vehicle will not travel in a straight line.

Most importantly, have fun! Rome wasn't built in a day and your mousetrap vehicle may not be built in an hour. Part of the fun is tweaking your vehicle to make it work better and more efficiently. Modifications to the design presented here are possible. GOOD LUCK!

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        bland21 

        6 months ago

        thanks this will be helpful with my project

      • profile image

        melody 

        13 months ago

        why are the wheels too close?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Look for a mouse symbol where the snap bar is. Cut the snap bar at a point just to the right of the mouse symbol.

      • profile image

        stacy 

        4 years ago

        What is that you cut when you say the square snap bar where it attaches to the middle bar to the right of the mouse

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        All you need to build one is in the hub. What other information do you need?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Let me know exactly what other information you're looking for! I'll see what I can do.

      • profile image

        faith 

        4 years ago

        hey what up with you please and thank

      • profile image

        faith 

        4 years ago

        hey please tell me about a mousetrap car.

      • profile image

        mr.so sexy 

        4 years ago

        it really works

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Mine went over 21 feet!

      • profile image

        Micheal 

        4 years ago

        how far does it go? past 5 feet?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Imthatgirl, retread steps 9-17 again. The information you need for attaching the wire to the pencil is there. You can try string but fishing wire will be lighter, more durable and create less friction when launching the car. Good luck!

      • profile image

        Imthatgirlkaii 

        5 years ago

        I'm very confused about how to attach the string to the pencil? Does it have to be fish wire or string? I'm doing this for an 8th grade project...

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Bishop55, I hope you get a chance to try this project out. It is a very cool science project.

      • Bishop55 profile image

        Rebecca 

        5 years ago from USA

        I gotta try this with my stepson! Voted up.

      • profile image

        Mr. E 

        5 years ago

        You need pics to help my son understand it better (he's a little slow).

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        rose-the-planner, so glad you enjoyed the hub. Try to make one some day. They are not only educational but a whole lot of fun!

      • rose-the planner profile image

        rose-the planner 

        5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

        Great tutorial on how to build a mousetrap car. Your instructions make this science project look easy. Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Glad you found the hub useful tj!

      • profile image

        tj 

        5 years ago

        this is good info

      • profile image

        savannahhawks 

        5 years ago

        hi cool

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Eric Calderwood, glad you enjoyed the project. I hope you get a chance to try it out. Thanks for commenting, cheers!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        lorddraven2000, so happy that you've found an interest in this project. It does take some persistance to get it together but the resulting car is well worth the effort! Hope you get a chance to use the idea! Let me know how it goes!

      • lorddraven2000 profile image

        Sam Little 

        5 years ago from Wheelwright KY

        Very interesting to say the least. I really have been considering doing something like this as a science project for some of the local kids who visit the library here. This was informitive and you described the steps really well. Thank you.

      • Eric Calderwood profile image

        Eric Calderwood 

        5 years ago from USA

        What a neat idea! I love finding science projects online. I am amazed at the ingenuity in some of the designs that I find. This project is no exception, great job!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Amyiscool, I have smashed ours against a wall without any damage.

        But obstacles will certainly reduce the length your car will travel.

      • profile image

        Amyiscool 

        5 years ago

        Be sure to clear a path in front of your mousetrap car. Obstacles may break the fragile design.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Awesome arod, I am so glad it worked out for you! Congratulations on the great mark!!!!

      • arod356 profile image

        arod356 

        5 years ago

        Thank you Teresa for your Mousetrap Car design, I really appreciate it!! My car works great and it went over 25 feet! The electrical tape worked as an alternative for the pop caps. And I made a 100 for the car in my Physics class.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        That sounds like it would work. Try it and see. Electrical tape will be easy to remove if it is not the right solution!

      • arod356 profile image

        arod356 

        5 years ago

        Could I wrap electrical tape to the left and right of the wheel axles' because I can't get the pop tabs to stick to the pencil?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Screw eyes do come in varying sizes. Can you fond some with a smaller screw diameter or if that fails, mousetraps also come in larger sizes. Perhaps you could find a larger mousetrap of the same design? Good luck arod356!

      • arod356 profile image

        arod356 

        5 years ago

        I'm having issues with the screw eyes. The pencil fits it in, but the screw diameter is too big for the mouse trap and it ends splintering up the top of the mouse trap.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks so much Daisy. My son loved the challenge of making one. It wasn't easy but the resulting vehicle worked great! Hope your cousin's sons enjoy the project!

      • Daisy Mariposa profile image

        Daisy Mariposa 

        5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

        Teresa,

        This looks like a fun project! I'm going to tell my cousin about your article. Her sons will love to make the car.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Not quite sure but I'm sure it is possible. It would make a great next hub miranda but I'm not in a position to work on this idea at the moment. Good luck!

      • profile image

        miranda 

        5 years ago

        how do you make a milk carton car

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Hayley, that will depend on the size of mousetrap you buy. The instructions will work for any size mousetrap of the same type illustrated. You would need to make those measurements yourself as they will be unique to your own mousetrap. Good luck!

      • profile image

        hayley1213 

        5 years ago

        what is the length in the car, height, and also the width?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        That you would have to experiment with yourself. Good luck, I'm sure there is a way!

      • profile image

        Calbin 

        6 years ago

        Is there a way to make this go reverse 1 meter?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        You are so right HG432. First time anyone has caught that error. Thanks for that. And yes, you do need 4 pop tab!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Now I get it. Can you find something straight, like a smaller diameter wooden dowel that will fit through the hooks? It doesn't have to be pencils, just something that will work like axels.

      • profile image

        HG432 

        6 years ago

        For this project do you need 4 pop can tabs because it says to repeat the step on the other side so does that require 2 more tabs?

      • profile image

        J123 

        6 years ago

        Well i got open hooks and they do fit into the trap but it doesn't work with the pencil? What do I do?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Not sure unless I know what kind of hooks you bought. If they are small and can screw into the mousetrap then they should work.

      • profile image

        J123 

        6 years ago

        I accidentally got the wrong type of hooks and I can't go get other ones... so what do I do? Can I still make it work?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks Steve. My son loved putting this project together

      • profile image

        Steve 

        6 years ago

        I loved the detail in your design and it is very educational! :D

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Our room was only 26 feet but the car was gaining speed when it hit the wall. I am sure you can go much farther than 30 feet with this model. Good luck!

      • profile image

        Safa Khawaja 

        6 years ago

        This looks like a great tutorial!What is the average distance this design is expected to go?

        My project is required to go at least 30 feet.

      • profile image

        Blah! 

        6 years ago

        I'm trying this.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        SOrry kk I can't as the car got handed in as a project and I don't have time to make another one as well as video. Work on it and if you have questions, I check my comments very frequently and might be able to provide some clarification. Sorry I can't be of more help!

      • profile image

        kk 

        6 years ago

        well its due on monday so im planning to do it but i don't understand all of the instructions can you like make a video like tommorow?...

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Sorry kk I don't have a video as of yet but it is on my list of things to do. Unfortunately that won't help you, sorry. Have a friend or parent help you at each step. It is a challenging project but if you work slowly and get a partner, friend or parent to help you will be pleased at the results. Good luck.

      • profile image

        kk 

        6 years ago

        i don't really understand my project is due soon and it doesn't make any sense do you have a video or something that can show me

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Good luck with your project esai!

      • profile image

        esai 

        6 years ago

        this will really help because i have a project coming up and ill need to have a scooter due so thank you i appreciate this

      • profile image

        your mom 

        6 years ago

        thank you

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks for your comment teaches12345. It was a fun project to work on with our son. I'm sure we'll be doing it again!

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        6 years ago

        Looks like a fun project. I remember doing the pine wood derby with my son when he was in the Scouts, this looks similar to that learning project.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        avikadakia , we used wire cutters to cut the snap bar.

      • profile image

        avikadakia 

        6 years ago

        what did you use to cut the snap bar?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        thank you Isabella!

      • profile image

        isabella 

        6 years ago

        that is really coool

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks Billy, it means a lot coming from you!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        6 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Teresa, we did this for several years in my science class, and it was one of the most popular lessons I have ever taught. Kids absolutely love doing this.

        Well done my friend!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        You are correct tranformicers. Also, for you first question regarding steps 15 to 17, yes you do make a loop at the end of the straight bar with pliers in order to attach the other end of the fishing wire. Hope that helps!

      • tranformicers profile image

        tranformicers 

        6 years ago

        w-w-wait I think I got it so... you ummmm... put the line in the hole in the pencil then you tie it on to the straight bar and twist the pencil so the line goes around the pencil and it draws the straight bar back and let it go and zoooooom! right? correct? or am i doing something wrong?

      • tranformicers profile image

        tranformicers 

        6 years ago

        I have a serious question about Number 15-17. Where do you get a "Loop" formed at the end of the straight bar? I'm REALLY confuzed. Are we supposed to somehow make a loop at the end of it with pliers? Or is it the small loop on the moustrap where the mouse points to? Where do you hook the fishing wire?!? I know you put one side of the fishing wire to the hole in the pencil, but then where does the other side of the fishing wire go to? Plz HELP I'm SOOOOOOO confuzed ;_;

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        NicoNya, see picture labelled steps 3 and 4 above. You remove the straight bar attached to the mouse nose. The opposite side had a bar forming a square on the original mousetrap. This bar is straightened and a loop is formed at the end. You attach the other end of the fishing line to this loop.

      • profile image

        NekoNya 

        6 years ago

        I am extremely confused on steps 16&17. Make a loop at the top of the straight bar? Doesn't it say to remove the straight bar anchored at the tip of the mouses nose at step 13? Or am I mixing up what bars your talking about?Also, can you show what step 17 look like? Or something? Doesn't seem very clear to me still either.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Emi. see step 15!

      • profile image

        Emi 

        6 years ago

        What was the purpose for drilling the hole in the middle of the pencil?

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Person 112, good luck and take your time for each step. It is a great project!

      • profile image

        Person112 

        6 years ago

        wow this is great im going to do this for shop class, thanks!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks so much. My pleasure. I'd appreciate an email to hear how he did. If he has any questions feel free to leave more comments here. I continually update this hub when users find difficulties making some aspect of the project work. Good luck. It is an amazing project when it works well!

      • Hyphenbird profile image

        Brenda Barnes 

        6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

        I showed this to my son and he said this will be his science project this year. Thanks for the clear step by step instructions. This is SO cool.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        The room was 26 ft long and it slammed into the wall so I suppose it would have gone a bit farther.

      • profile image

        bren 

        6 years ago

        how far did yours go

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Glad you liked the hub so much! Hope you can build one for your class! Thanks for the comment KDuBarry03

      • profile image

        KDuBarry03 

        6 years ago

        My sister is a high school science teacher and I think she would love to do this project with her students! Great share and easy-following instructions :)

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Dasda, bend the end of the straight bar into a loop. Tie the fishing line to this metal loop.

      • profile image

        Dasda 

        6 years ago

        and what do you mean you made a loop at the top of the straight bar? with the string? Please help me.

      • profile image

        DDasas 

        6 years ago

        Are there any clearer instructions as to hoe to tie the string and to what?

      • profile image

        6969 

        6 years ago

        i want more picture of the pop tabs

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        The saying goes, 'There's always more than one way to skin a cat"! Glad you got it to work FootyFreak. Sounds like it moved pretty far! Glad the hub helped.

      • profile image

        FootyFreak10 

        6 years ago

        I've accidentally drilled a hole for the fishing line not on the pencil but just in front of it (on the trap). Don't know if that matters? But have worked around it with some fine-tuning and it goes 4-5 metres. Thanx for all your help!!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        ours was able to travel at least the length of a 26ft room. Check yo make sure the arm is straight and that you have a long length of fishing line. it has to be wound tightly around the back axle pulling the arm down with it. You need a lot of force to propel it forward when you let go of the back wheels.

      • profile image

        FootyFreak10 

        6 years ago

        How far did yours go?

        Mine's not going over 2 metres. I must have gone wrong SOMEWHERE??

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Glad my hub was helpful FootyFreak 10.

      • profile image

        FootyFreak10 

        6 years ago

        The instructions were really easy to follow.

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        glad it was helpful.

      • profile image

        FootyFreak10 

        6 years ago

        Thanx! helped me with my school project!!

      • profile image

        Lenny Pepperbottom 

        6 years ago

        tcsmallz, i bet you can make a mean mousetrap car you just have to put your mind to it

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        bigdee, hope you gave it a try a persevered. It is amazing when your final project takes off like a shot!

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        tcsmallz, it does take patience to put this together and may require modifications to get it to run straight and well but the effort is worth the final result. I know that for many physics classes, this is a yearly project. Hope you try again!

      • profile image

        bigdee 

        6 years ago

        wow ty

      • profile image

        tcsmallz 

        6 years ago

        I hate this project

      • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        AndriyR, hope you do try it. It takes some patience but the end result is worth the effort.

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