Anticipation and intense concentration filled the room. The participants entering vehicles into the race were scattered around the room, working out last minute kinks while attempting to make their submissions flawless. Some were using hot glue to alter their vehicles; others were drilling and tying up loose ends with fishing line.
The 26th annual mousetrap races where held in room 713 on Wednesday, April 27 at 2 p.m. A standard mousetrap has the same amount of energy as two hundred millionths of one gallon of gasoline. And with such a minuscule source of energy, Professor Steven Klein has challenged his E4 students as well as the public for 26 years.
“I got started on mousetraps in the seventies and that theme has just remained,” said Klein. “My advice for students would be to think simple first and build from that.” Klein changes the theme of the Mousetrap Race yearly. In years past there have been drag races, boat races, hill climbs, and helicopter races.
With only a few minutes until the event began, butterflies started creeping into the stomachs of the contestants. Room 713 was crammed with students and teachers. The seats were full, leaving standing room only. The moment some have been working towards for months was now going to become a reality. They were finally going to find out if the vehicles they had worked so hard on were going to live up to expectations.
This year the theme was flight. Ideally this year’s vehicle moves itself down a three foot runway and takes off, flies into the air for a few seconds, then finally meeting its destiny: a hard classroom floor. Those who enter the competition can attempt flight as many times as they want, or as long as their vehicle will hold up.
As the capacity crowd waited patiently, Sean Korhummel, the first person to attempt flight, walked up to the runway and placed his vehicle, “Plan B,” on the starting line. He set off his mousetrap using a launching pad. With an immense amount of energy, “Plan B” flew backwards three feet in distance.
Next up was a vehicle called, “The Stork.” “The Stork” was built by Tiffany and Jeremiah Bean. Like most of the vehicles in the competition, “The Stork” resembled an early 20th century plane. The prediction for this vehicle was a flight of ten feet. When asked if they thought their vehicle was going to meet expectations Tiffany Bean replied, “We didn’t have enough time to test it, but we get a lot of rotation and are hoping everything goes as planed, however, “The Stork” did a nose dive after leaving the runway and reached a distance of only six inches.
After the nose dive by the previous competitor, the “The Beast” engineered by Mel Ayala and Harpreet Dhanda had to reach a distance of more than half a foot to take first place. “The Beast” was a wingless vehicle that ran on the power of one mousetrap. When asked about the absence of wings Ayala said, “We knew that flight could not be achieved so we went for projectile motion.”
“The Beast” shot out of the runway in a hurry and flew a graceful 3.5 feet, to take the lead. The other competitors attempted tried, but the distance of 3.5 feet put up by “The Beast” held strong.
“We had several prototypes, but none of them worked, so we quickly built ‘The Beast’ in 20 minutes.” said an excited Ayala after watching his vehicle take the lead.
Just when the competition seemed to reach an end, one participant decided to run his vehicle one last time, in hopes that his mousetrap driven plane could meet or beat the distance of the leader. Billie Fritz’s vehicle, “The Wright Wing Flyer,” reached a distance of one foot in its first run. Fritz knew his mousetrap plane was better than that, so he did not give up and started tinkering with it. As the crowd started to disperse, Fritz set his “Wright Wing Flyer” on the runway and gave it one last go. His plane headed down the long three foot stretch of table, producing just enough energy to keep it airborne, reaching three feet before it started descending. Fritz’s plane smashes into the ground with a distance of 3.5 feet, tying for first place.
When comparing the current to years past, Klein says, “This year was one of my favorites because I got to see my current students make some amazing contraptions.”
“The Wright Wing Flyer” is on display in the Mesa Center in the 700 building.