Investigating a Physics Phenomenon - MTC LAB


  • We can often find useful, interesting day-to-day occurrences to help us understand topics in science.

  • We will design and build a mouse-trap car to help us understand the concepts of momentum and impulse.

GOALS (You will work with your group to construct an appropriate 'purpose' statement based on the following goals):

(*) Construct a mtc with some sort of airbag model

(*) The force experienced by that mtc in a collision with a wall from 2.0 meters should be as low as possible

(*) Work to minimize or eliminate the recoil (bounce-back) after the mtc impacts the wall

MODEL DAY #1: Build your car.


Work with your group to re-familiarize yourself with the principles of impulse-- particularly in how impulse relates to vehicle airbags. Pay particular attention to the importance of FORCE in such cases.

Begin testing your data collection methods using our LabQuests

MODEL DAY #3: Prelab

Begin writing your purpose, materials, methods and construct an appropriate data table.

  • You do NOT have to list all the materials that make up a mouse trap car that came from the kit-- just indicate the name of the kit and manufacturer of that kit. If you already listed ALL of those, no worries.
  • You DO need to indicate any materials that you added to your mtc

Be thinking ahead about the sort of data you are likely to see:

  • The Labquest motion sensors send out 'chirps' every .05 seconds. That means you'll get a strem of 20 data points every second

  • You will likely have to make certain estimates if your key events don't precisely fall during those .05 second increments

  • How will you use the impulse formula (F∆t = ∆p = mfvf-mivi) to determine the force experienced by your mtc during impact?

Finalize your data collection methods. I particular, make sure you can analyze "crash" data to determine:

1) initial velocity (just as the 'airbag' first hits the wall)

2) final velocity (just as the 'airbag' is at its greatest compression

3) ∆t (the time for steps 1 - 2 above)

4) Do you need to measure acceleration? If so, use our small accelerometers concurrently with the LabQuests

  • Motion sensors provide time, displacement (shown as "position" on the device) and velocity. The motion sensors also show acceleration data but it is highly unreliable.
  • Accelerometers measure time and acceleration only; but have the advantage of being very light and portable and send data directly to your chromebooks



  • Force (F) (measured in Newtons)
  • Impulse (J) (CHANGE of momentum)
  • Momentum (p) (measured in kilograms-meters/second)
  • Time (t) (measured in seconds)
  • Velocity (v) (measured in meters/second)

My Black Hen Lays Eggs

In the Relative When

She Won't Lay Them Here in the PROBABLE NOW

Because she's unable to postulate how!