How to Build a Mousetrap Car for Science Class

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 which 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!

Read More About Building Mousetrap Cars

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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!

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Comments 124 comments

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 21 months ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


stacy 2 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 image

Teresa Coppens 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


faith 2 years ago

hey what up with you please and thank


faith 2 years ago

hey please tell me about a mousetrap car.


mr.so sexy 2 years ago

it really works


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Mine went over 21 feet!


Micheal 2 years ago

how far does it go? past 5 feet?


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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!


Imthatgirlkaii 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Bishop55 profile image

Bishop55 3 years ago from USA

I gotta try this with my stepson! Voted up.


Mr. E 3 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Glad you found the hub useful tj!


tj 3 years ago

this is good info


savannahhawks 3 years ago

hi cool


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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

lorddraven2000 3 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 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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

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


Amyiscool 3 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


arod356 profile image

arod356 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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 3 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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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!


miranda 3 years ago

how do you make a milk carton car


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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!


hayley1213 3 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Calbin 3 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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 image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


HG432 4 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?


J123 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


J123 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks Steve. My son loved putting this project together


Steve 4 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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!


Safa Khawaja 4 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.


Blah! 4 years ago

I'm trying this.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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!


kk 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


kk 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Good luck with your project esai!


esai 4 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


your mom 4 years ago

thank you


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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

teaches12345 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


avikadakia 4 years ago

what did you use to cut the snap bar?


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

thank you Isabella!


isabella 4 years ago

that is really coool


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks Billy, it means a lot coming from you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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 4 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 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


NekoNya 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Emi. see step 15!


Emi 4 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Person112 4 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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

Hyphenbird 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


bren 4 years ago

how far did yours go


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


KDuBarry03 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Dasda 4 years ago

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


DDasas 4 years ago

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


6969 4 years ago

i want more picture of the pop tabs


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


FootyFreak10 4 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 image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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.


FootyFreak10 4 years ago

How far did yours go?

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Glad my hub was helpful FootyFreak 10.


FootyFreak10 4 years ago

The instructions were really easy to follow.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

glad it was helpful.


FootyFreak10 4 years ago

Thanx! helped me with my school project!!


Lenny Pepperbottom 4 years ago

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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!


bigdee 4 years ago

wow ty


tcsmallz 4 years ago

I hate this project


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

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


AndriyR 4 years ago

Great instructions! Never knew a mousetrap can be a car. Gotta try it myself! Thank you!


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Josh and Amy, reexamine the steps. I have added to the instructions regarding the pop tabs. Check out the slide show and enlarge the slides containing the pop tabs (step 13 slide should show the tab placement clearly). I will add new pictures at a later date.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks Rebecca. This was one of my very first hubs. Some of the recent comments indicate I need a few revisions. I'll be updating the photos very shortly for at least one of the steps.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

'Sounds like a good project to embark on some rainy (or hot) summer day when everyone is bored.Thanks for the ideas, it's really cute. I really like the fact that the materials are so common and easy to get!


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Perhaps they might work but they are more fragile than pencils and might break when the ca r is released.


josh 4 years ago

amys right please show more details on the pop can part!


amy 4 years ago

wouldn't BBQ sticks be better than pencils?


amy 4 years ago

i really like how you have it step by step but you didn't really show more detail on where to put the pop can tabs


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Good question ebony. I have added a step and modified the step you questioned about the curved bar. We made a loop at the top of the bar and then tied the fishing line to that loop. The electrical tape adds extra security to make sure the fishing line stays attached. This bar is the same one referred to in step 4!


ebony 4 years ago

I'm confused on what the curved bar is in step 16


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hope you had success in making one Andrew!


Andrew 4 years ago

Awesme


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

It does really work but I have seen it done well with high school students. My son did have to do something similar however for a grade 8 science class and although it was hard the majority of the class was successful. When ever I have done any kind of experiment with a class I have always made a prototype first so I know what problems they will run into. In any event, the mistakes the kids make are just as important to the learning process as the successes. The mouse trap cars that my sons have made have all worked, some better than others which will always be the case. It can be done!


sugarbear 4 years ago

Will it really work cause im doing it for a project in 8th grade and it seems soooooo hard


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Awesome. If you get a chance person123 let me know how the project turns out with your class!


person123 4 years ago

I am using this for an eight grade project


niceee 4 years ago

awesome car nice distances?


jonny cash 4 years ago

im goin in


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

I hope you get a chance to try out the design!


RandomHaha 4 years ago

Very cool


RandomHaha 4 years ago

Very cool


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

My son has done this project for Grade 9 Auto shop in which case he was just having fun. He also did it again a few weeks ago for Grade 11 physics. In this case, as he was able to explain why he used some of the modifications he incorporated tells me he was applying the principles of force and motion he has been learning in class.


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 5 years ago

Very complete insructions. What grade do they usually do this project and do the students actually learn anything or just have fun?


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks for commenting Becky and Learn from Me. My son learned a lot of patience from completing this activity. It was a great bonding experience for him and his dad as it really is helpful to have two people working on the project. But be careful with those mousetraps! A class could have a lot of fun building, decorating and having a Nascar Mousetrap race! As well, in physics a number of their problem sets could be put to practical practice! Glad you enjoyed the hub!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Will use this one with my daughter in homeschool. It looks fun. Thanks


LearnFromMe profile image

LearnFromMe 5 years ago

This is an awesome step-by-step hub of how to make a mousetrap car! A teacher of gifted students in my school does this with her classes and races the cars down the hallway. I love to walk in and see the kids with their safety goggles and tools trying to put the cars together. It really is an interesting project! Thanks for sharing!

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