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 for this entire unit.

  • That means you have to maintain your mousetrap car. It will break easily, it's your job to make sure it doesn't.

UNIT QUESTION/PHENOMENON: "Why does an airbag keep you safe during an automobile collision?"


"Can we successfully model an airbag collision in our high school classroom?"


    • Work with your group to suggest/sketch/diagram a beginning working model on paper.

    • Assemble a mousetrap car from a kit I provide or work with your group to bring in materials to build one

    • Work with your group to record mass and velocity data

    • Make changes to your working sketch, model as you go

    • Add "airbag" to your car

    • Take collision data


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


  • Get ready to use our lab quest data collection devices (they can be finicky and therefore VERY frustrating at times) to measure:
    • velocity
    • time
    • displacement

Keep in mind you MUST document each step... think of each of those as chapters in a book describing your activities

Also, EACH person in your group does everything all the time. No one persons documents, no one person builds etc...

    Follow established engineering concepts to sketch and design your car.

    • Anticipate problem areas AND document those problem areas BEFORE you begin taking data

    • Redesign your car to take into account those possible problem areas

    • Build a mousetrap car to investigate changes in momentum (impulse)

    • Make changes in MTC to model airbag deployment

    • "Crash" cars into your barrier and use labquests to collect supporting data

Project Files

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!