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Mousetrap Car is Focus of Annual High School Design Contest

Saturday, September 17, 2005

 [mousetrap car]

The University of Kansas School of Engineering has announced its annual High School Design Competition. The contest, which requires students to build a small vehicle propelled only by the spring system of a standard mousetrap, will be held Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Eaton Hall on the KU Lawrence campus. Activities begin at 9 a.m.

Register now

to take part in the contest. Lunch will be provided for all participants and parking passes will be available for registering schools. The deadline for registration is Oct. 7.

For questions about the contest, or clarification about the rules, contact Jennifer Schmitendorf at (785) 864-2931, or


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KU campus map.



To design and construct a vehicle powered only by a spring from a simple, standard mousetrap. The vehicle will be tested in three categories. The first is a speed test through 8 meters. The second is a power test, climbing a 15-degree incline. The incline will be increased to 30 degrees if the 15-degree incline does not prove to be a sufficient challenge. The third test is a skidpad (handling test) navigating a nominal 0.75 meter radius circle (1 meter maximum radius). Students must work in teams of three to five members. Event winners, as well as overall winners, will be recognized.


The vehicle can be manufactured from any material. However, the propulsion system can only be the spring from a mousetrap. The vehicle has to be completely self-contained. The vehicle must be original, i.e., it cannot be a purchased kit.

Test Apparatus:

The testing surface will be carpeted. The carpet is typical industrial type carpet.

Test Procedure:

All events will be timed. The acceleration and power events will be run in heats of two, but will still be timed. The skidpad times will be the average of a left- and right-hand circle.


1. The vehicle can be no longer than 30 centimeters nor wider than 30 centimeters.

2. The vehicle can only be powered by the mousetrap spring system.

3. No start assist devices (springboards, catapults, etc.) can be used.

4. The vehicle cannot be pulled or pushed by other objects (winches, etc.). The vehicle has to be self-contained.

5. Rules will be modified/clarified as questions arise.

6. Anyone violating “the spirit of the competition” will be disqualified.

7. The vehicle must remain in its "lane", i.e., 50-centimeter wide path. Any deviation outside the path will result in disqualification.

8. Students must work in teams of three to five members.


1. The minimum radius for the skidpad course is .75 meters. The maximum radius for the skidpad course is 1 meter. -- updated 9/7/2005

2. There will be no rail or wall on the inside curve or the outside curve of the skidpad course. The vehicle must be able to navigate the curve on its own. -- updated 9/7/2005

3. The inclined plane will be a length of 4 meters. – updated 9/9/2005

4. Parts may be added and taken off of the vehicle between the competition events. Vehicles cannot “shed” parts during their run in an event. The teams must use the same vehicle for every competition event. – updated 9/9/2005

5. The minimum radius on the skid pad will be .75 meters. The maximum is 1 meter. Keep in mind there will be no rails or walls. The first lap on the skid pad will be for acceleration and the second lap will be timed for the competition. * – updated 9/9/2005

6. The length of the lever arm may be increased. The only component that may not be altered is the spring. — updated 9/9/2005

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