STEM - Year 9 Project, 2019

Mousetrap Driven Vehicle

Year 9 students at Corpus Christi College in Perth are rumoured to have broken the land speed record with a mousetrap-driven vehicle, according to CNN reporter Hans Rocketship. Other rumours trending on social media include: the heaviest weight towed by a spring-loaded vehicle and the furthest distance traveled by a mouse-trap vehicle. 

Mr. Rocketship said yesterday: 'Rumours are one things, but where is the evidence?'

Your team will be following the STEM Development Process to investigate different mousetrap-driven vehicle designs capable of traveling the longest distance, or the fastest speed, or the greatest weight. 

STEP 1: Collaborate

What solutions do you already know about?

  • What have you seen work before? Describe it. What was the feature/s that made this design so successful?

What ideas you can get from these solutions?

  • Without copying the design, what aspects could you use or modify for your own design? Why have you chosen these features? How will they benefit your design in terms of being the fastest, longest distance or greatest weight?

What methods of communication will you use?

  • Will you email each other, swap phone numbers, collaborate only via Google slides, or some other way? 

How will you manage your time?

  • Is there someone in your group that can keep you on task? Could you make a work timeline and make sure you stick to it? Come up with a way that your team will stay on track to be able to finish each task in the given time. 

Who will handle problems as they arise?

  • Will all issues and disagreements be handled by your project manager, or will you discuss them as a group? Decide what you will do now. 

Have we allowed for people being away?

  • If someone is away, are they still expected to work from home? How will you tell them what to do?

What will we record in our portfolio?

  • Read through the student portfolio and make sure you understand everything that is required. 


STEP 2: Investigate

Understanding the physics behind designing a mousetrap-powered vehicle will give you a clear advantage in this competition. 

Below is a link that will introduce the science behind mousetrap-powered vehicles and include some material and design suggestions:

Need to understand the science further? See this link. 

Not sure how to start? Watch this clip:

More of a visual learner? Watch the clip below. The design isn't perfect, but you should start thinking about how you would redesign it, based on the materials you can collect.


STEP 3: Design

Based on your research and investigations from STEP 2, create 2-3 design sketches. 

They should have:

  • a heading that clearly articulates if your design is for longest, fastest or strongest
  • labels that include the feature, functionality and materials required
  • justification to explain which is the best design

STEP 4: Produce

Does your chosen design take into account:

  • the materials, tools and skills required to build it?
  • does our group have enough time to build this design? How many lessons will you need to take?
  • which group member will do what? How will you work productively together as a team?
  • have you captured each step in the process for your digital portfolio?

STEP 5: Evaluate

This is your opportunity to test your car to check that it works as well as you designed it to work!

You should conduct your testing scientifically using a series of trials. 

  1. Test your vehicle under similar conditions you will be using for the competition. Record your time, distance, or weight. Repeat several times to get an average as well as test the durability of your design. 
  2. Discuss and analyse your design. Does it meet the requirements? Are there changes that need to be made?
  3. Record your data, along with photographs or videos in your digital portfolio

STEP 6: Redesign

Based on your research and trials from STEP 5 you should analyse your design and discuss opportunities for improvements with your team. 

You should consider:

  • how much time do we have to make changes?
  • what is the main design feature that needs to be altered?
  • how will these changes enhance the effectiveness of our design?

Remember to:

  • take a close up photograph of your vehicle before you make any adjustments
  • sketch and label your new design. Make it clear what is different. 
  • conduct a series of trials just like in Step 5. Record your results. 

Lastly, don't forget to include a photograph and even a video of your final design in your digital portfolio!

Adapting for Distance

Adapting for Speed