Students Apply Advanced Technology to Mousetrap Challenge

Published 06.04.2010

Student News
Automated Manufacturing & Machining

Pennsylvania College of technology student Shawn D. Wagner, of Troy, explains his team%E2%80%99s cheddar-shaped mousetrap design, produced on a rapid-prototyping machine.Pennsylvania College of Technology manufacturing engineering technology students took on one of modern humanity's perpetual challenges: to build a better mousetrap.

Working in groups, the students designed humane mousetraps that could be produced on the college's rapid prototyping machine, also called a three-dimensional printer.

Design constraints called for the students' innovations to: require no batteries or external power to work; capture at least one mouse without killing it in the process (rather than catching mice, the students used weights and magnets to demonstrate that their innovations would work); clearly indicate to a user whether a mouse is trapped; allow for the use of a simple bait, such as peanut butter; be easily cleaned; be easily reset for new capture; and be reliable, so that a mouse at the bait is captured almost 100 percent of the time.

The 24 students generated nine unique designs, each of which met the goal via such methods as spring-loaded hatches, trap doors and simple gravity.

The same class garnered exposure among several online technical communities for its participation in a similar mousetrap design challenge posted by Makerbot Industries in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one of its community members in Ireland.

Several community members submitted designs to the challenge, and the college's Rapid Prototyping class chose to produce a trap designed by Mark Fuller, of Georgia, who had posted the digital information required to create the trap but had no physical model.

After creating a prototype, the class critiqued Fuller's design, both from an aesthetic view and a working test, using weights and magnets, rather than a mouse, to find the trigger weight for it to activate.

"From this, Mark modified his original design, and thus posted a video showing the working design with the improvements," Albert said.

The video, on which the college and Albert's class are credited, was then blogged about by Make magazine, Makerbot and CrunchGear.

"It's kind of amazing to me that we "˜got noticed' by some of the larger technical community," Albert said. "My class has had some fun seeing how this all works."

Along with the experience of collaborative engineering, the activity showed the value of rapid prototyping, a quickly advancing process that creates a physical model directly from a three-dimensional computer-aided design. It has begun to change the way companies design and build products, allowing for quicker and less-costly design testing. It is also emerging as a process for rapid manufacturing.

Rapid Prototyping is a required senior-level course for students in the manufacturing engineering technology major at Penn College.

To learn more about manufacturing engineering technology and other majors offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, visit online or call 570-327-4520.

For general information about the college, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.