Reflection: Staircase of Complexity Mousetrap Racers - Section 2: Set-up


The big question I asked myself when I first designed this unit is whether I should include instructions or let the kid's imagination and ingenuity take over. With this activity I try to straddle both worlds. I give instructions to a basic kit and encourage independent student design.

A vast majority of my students have never built anything. With these students I want to be supportive and provide a project that seem doable in their eyes. Many of these types of kids have never held a tool before. For this population I provide the step by step instructions. 

There are some students who have torn apart car engines and feel the need to be able to build something better than anyone else. With this group of students I tell them that they will receive extra credit for an original design. The only requirement I have for these students is that their car must be powered by a mousetrap spring. 

My ultimate goal is to encourage the first time engineering student while supporting experienced students with a more complicated project.

  Include or not include directions
  Staircase of Complexity: Include or not include directions
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Mousetrap Racers

Unit 12: Engineering and Design
Lesson 2 of 11

Objective: Students will be able to apply Newton's Three Laws to the design, construction, and performance of a car powered by a mousetrap spring.

Big Idea: Practical application of Newton's Laws of Motion in the creation of a mousetrap powered car.

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  215 minutes
mouse trap racers
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