We recently had our annual King of the Hill competition with our 12th grade Physics students!
Each year our Physics students build mousetrap cars as they begin to study forces and motion. The first round of cars don’t work very well; the students don’t really know yet what it takes to make a durable and fast car. Once they’ve finished building and testing the first round, our teacher asks them how they can make their cars better. The students come up with ideas, and figure out what concepts they will need to learn more about in order to improve their cars.
Thus begins a series of inquiries and lessons on Newton’s laws of motion and the forces of friction and tension. Throughout this process, students do multiple redesigns of their mousetrap cars. The classes get to choose which concepts they want to start with, but by the end, they’ll have covered all the things they need to know about forces and motion.
The unit culminates in the King of the Hill competition, where students pit their mousetrap cars against each other in a race to the top! Of a ramp, that is… Whoever gets to the top of the ramp — and manages to stay there — is the winner. This means that their cars must be designed to move forward uphill quickly, and also to somehow stop their competitor’s car from pushing their own back down the ramp.
This year’s King of the Hill was a grand success! There were 32 individual competitions spaced out over the course of the school day, as well as displays about the individual cars, and several groups created mousetrap car kits for younger students to construct themselves. Classes from throughout Lighthouse came to visit and participate.