CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) – Widener University today hosted hundreds of area high school students in an engineering competition that centered  on a  simple mousetrap.

They weren’t trying to make a better mousetrap, just trying to get as much power out of it as possible for their homemade vehicles.

Ron Mersky, a Widener professor and director of engineering, says the mousetrap competition is a tradition that goes back 30 years.

“Students had to design a vehicle powered by only one single, standard mousetrap,” he tells KYW Newsradio, “and the goal was for that vehicle to make its way through a course which has a bend and other obstacles. The further they go, the more points they win.”

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(Zack Burgess and Evan Winick of Delsea High School, with their mousetrap-powered car entry. Credit: Paul Kurtz)


There were lots of clever designs.

“We picked out the most powerful mousetraps, and then we made the drive rod shorter,” said one young man.  “It gets more power when it snaps down.”

“In order to make the left hand turn, we have the front axle angled a little bit,” said another, “so that way when the car goes, it will turn with the left turn of the course.”

Just about all the vehicles had one thing in common — wheels made out of discarded CDs.

“CDs are the best, with the balloons around them,” explained a competitor.  “They’re real small, and then you put the balloons on them for traction.  That seems to work the best.”

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(Prof. Ron Mersky. Source: Widener Univ.)

The team from Whitemarsh High School won the competition, but Prof. Mersky (right) says there really are no losers:

“They end up learning a lot and getting a feel for what it really is to be an engineer,” he notes.

Reported by Paul Kurtz, KYW Newsradio 1060

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