Physics students build a better mousetrap (car)

The fun and frenetic side of science was on display Monday morning as students competed in Memorial Gym to see whose mousetrap-powered car could travel the farthest. 

Working in teams, the students in the physics class of Upper School Science Faculty Jim MacVarish P ‘11 got three chances to launch their vehicles across the gym floor; the two best runs were averaged to create a final score while the shortest run was considered a mulligan. 

“Nothing’s ever broken,” MacVarish reminded his students as they fine-tuned their cars just before competition. “It just needs more duct tape.” 

In the end, while all cars fared well, the winning team of AJ Choo ‘24 and Jack McCarthy ‘24 practically lapped the competition. With a final score of 125 feet, their mousetrap car had to be turned after traveling the length of the basketball court (so as not to hit the wall) and set a quite-unofficial school record in the process. Practically the only thing the car didn’t do that morning was catch mice. 

Second place honors went to Cam DiRico ‘23, Anna Kenney ‘22, and Nolan Simmons ‘22 with a final score of 64 feet. 

Finishing third was the team of Hugh Geraghty ‘23 and Eli Kream ‘23, whose final score of 51.5 feet edged out the team of Leo Eschauzier ‘23 and Grady Russo ‘23, whose final score was 51 feet. 

While entertaining, the competition also served as an introductory project to begin a unit on energy. What the students were doing, explained MacVarish, was converting the potential energy stored in the mousetrap spring into kinetic energy to move the car along. 

“Friction is the enemy,” he said. 

Thayer Academy Mousetrap Car 1

Jack McCarthy ‘24 and AJ Choo ‘24 launch their mousetrap-powered car. 

Thayer Academy Mousetrap Car 2

Using levers, wheels, and axles, the mousetrap car converts the potential energy of the mousetrap spring into kinetic energy. 

 

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