Don’t Build Your Mousetrap Car Before You Read This

What you need to consider

Building a mousetrap car can be a enjoyable and educational experience for many future scientists and engineers. However, when designing a mousetrap car to specifically cater towards a competition, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

1. what are you trying to achieve?

This is an important question to answer because knowing what the specific task the mousetrap car needs to perform is essential to designing and building an excellent mousetrap vehicle.

To answer this question, look at the rules of your competition; is your competition based on the speed of the vehicle, the distance it travels, the accuracy of the car traveling a specific distance, or being able to precisely reverse. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, the areas that need to optimize of your vehicle will change, and, if you are unable to recognize those changes, then the car you build will not perform well in your specific competition.

View “Mousetrap Vehicle Fundamentals” to learn more about how to optimize your car:

2. how much time do you have?

Many new builders find and create innovative solutions to forge the best mousetrap car. However, when building and designing a new and complex vehicle, it is important to consider how much time you have available to build, test, and potentially rebuild your vehicle.

For most new builders, I would recommend that you stick to a simple design as it will help to teach you the basics of a mousetrap car and might inspire you with new changes to make in the future.

For experienced builders, I believe that working out a new concept or design for your vehicle will provide you with a new and exciting challenge to take on and motivate you to further explore science. 

If you happen to have a promising vehicle idea, then you should start building it right away. Just be careful to work effectively to complete your vehicle within the time constraints of your competition.

3. what is your budget?

Before investing in high quality material, look at how much you are willing to spend on your mousetrap car.

Many national-winning mousetrap vehicles are usually comprised of premium quality material, such as carbon fiber, titanium axles, ultra-light wheels, and miniature ball bearings, which can strain your wallet. When building on a budget, it is important to analyze where concessions can be made to save money.

Example concessions:

  1. If you or your school has access to a 3D printer, then you can print your frame instead of using carbon fiber.
  2. Balsa and bass wood can also be an effective substitute for a carbon fiber or 3D printed chassis.
  3. CDs can be an effective substitute for ultra-light wheels if you are able to prevent the CD from wobbling on the axles.
  4. Titanium axles are not necessary 
  5. Thin axle spacers can serve as a substitute for ball bearings, but the use of ball bearings will significantly improve results to a point where even those with a tight budget should consider purchasing them.

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