Engineering students race their mousetrap cars in friendly classwide competition

This past Saturday, three engineering classes came together and participated in a project-based competition dubbed the Mousetrap Car Competition. 

Three ENGR 110 classes (Intro Engineering Fundamentals) participated in a friendly competition to test their knowledge and understanding of what they’ve learned this semester.

According to Tate Fonville, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, the three professors teaching ENGR 110 classes hold this competition at the end of every semester. Mara Bear, a freshman engineering major in the class, said that the whole semester built up to the competition.

When it came to supplies, Bear stated that they were only given a pamphlet with instructions and a mousetrap. The rest was up to them.

“Everything else, we were completely on our own,” Bear said. “The electronics we had to do on our own, and construction was on our own time. We had no class time to build.”

Bear’s team split the work up according to strengths within the group. They originally had four members, but one student dropped the class earlier on, so three of them had to work around that. Teammate Ben LaPole was the main constructor for the group, designing the model of their car, and both Bear and Chloe Potter, who acted as the team’s leader, mainly focused on writing up the reports.

The competition started in the morning and lasted until noon. A total of 17 teams had to compete in four different tests: a break test, a distance test, a velocity test and an accuracy test. Each test was graded on different areas that affect their final grade for the project, and if the students didn’t do as well as they hoped, they could try it again as many times as needed to get a better score.

The first test Bear’s team did was the brake test. In this test, each group’s mousetrap car needed to be able to brake at a predetermined distance. Not only that, but the car needed to stay within the lane and not falter outside the lines. 

Another test was the distance test. This test was simple: to see how far each group’s car would go. The catch? Each group had to predict the distance they believe their car will go. Each group had a two-meter window, but if it went outside those buffers, they would not get full marks.

During the velocity test, the car was tested on its speed and velocity and had to make it 10 meters. Two people timed the car, one person standing halfway and the other at the end. Each time recorded would be used to calculate the average velocity. The more accurate the team’s guess as to what the average velocity was to the result, the more points they earned.

Lastly, each group needed to complete the accuracy test. During this test, each group was told a distance that their car had to reach, and each group needed to get within at least two meters of the distance or be as accurate as possible.

Bear’s team had a good mix of experienced students in engineering and students who were rather new to the whole ordeal. Bear originally majored in business but made the switch to industrial engineering after making friends in the engineering department and learning about what they do. LaPole simply found joy in the analytics and interactive process.

“I just like working hands-on and problem-solving,” LaPole said. 

Potter has some experience in the field as her father was a civil engineer, so she grew up around the environment and developed a love for it. 

“I grew up going to all the fields (with my dad),” Potter said. “I loved it.”At the end of the competition, the highest-scoring teams were announced with Team 3 – “The Cheese Graters,” winning overall with 48.7 out of 50 points. 

Pickard is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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