Finding a new purpose for a common object always sparks excitement! Such was the case when the Upper School students at Tuxedo Park School recently discovered that the common mousetrap can do a lot more than just attract mice. Dory Masefield’s 8th Grade Science class was assigned a STEM Design Challenge to design and build a car that is powered by a mousetrap. Students were provided with a limited amount of materials: cardboard, craft sticks, CDs, a straw, a chopstick, dowels, tape, hot glue, and string, in addition to the mousetrap.
Students are required to research design options and collaborate with classmates. The upper school science department emphasizes the importance of scientific writing skills. Therefore, the students complete a full lab write-up by first documenting a diagram of their original design and then analyzing the success of that blueprint by recording challenges and corresponding modifications to ultimately construct the most efficiently functioning car.
“I really enjoy watching how students' understanding of forces evolves as they move through the steps of this project.” Ms. Masefield explained. “They take for granted the car they rode to school in, rarely thinking about how the tires turn. The concept of friction comes alive as they test their cars and brainstorm design modifications using these simple materials.”
The project will conclude with students "racing" their cars during a Friday assembly, with awards given to the two students with cars that travel the longest distance.
I bet the mice would love a joyride!