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Mousetrap Racers: The Complete Builder's Manual Review by Tony SilvaAlden J. Balmer
Fox Chapel Publishing
1970 Broad Street
East Petersburg, PA 17520
Mousetrap Racers: The Complete Builder's Manual ($14.95) may be the one book you add to your homeschool curriculum collection that gets dad more involved in your homeschool. It is not curriculum in the sense of a textbook or a unit study guide. However, Mousetrap Racers is definitely a great learning tool.
Written by Alden J. Balmer, also known as "Doc Fizzix", this book goes beyond the how-to-build-it instructions the title implies; it explains the physics behind mousetrap cars as it gives both details and easy-to-follow directions for building. Reading through the text and studying the many detailed illustrations, it is easy to forget you're learning about principles like friction (fluid and surface), motion, traction, and energy. While most of the "academics" are snugly hidden in Chapter 2, the principles are reinforced throughout the text. Some of the illustrations are humorous, and all of them are clear.
More advanced racers and building techniques are presented later in the book. Included in these are Doc Fizzix's super-secret tips for improving distance racers. Of course, we won't spoil the fun by revealing these. Suffice it to say, both dad and child will probably want to move on to more advanced methods of building better and faster cars. For those who do get hooked, there is a chapter devoted to "just in case techniques" and a chapter on advanced science labs. Do these and give your student credit for having a good time learning important physics concepts.
Any home center has an ample supply of mousetraps, but what about the guy who just wants a kit? We went out and bought parts at the home center and acquired several PSA discs from a local radio station to serve as wheels. That's probably the most economical way to get the goods you need to build a racer. For those who would prefer a kit, Doc Fizzix has a website devoted to all things mousetrap racing at www.docfizzix.com. There are kits, science labs, and building guides for all types of racers--balloon, rubber band, and, of course, mousetraps. The first step is to get your hands on a copy of Mousetrap Racers: The Complete Builder's Manual, the definitive guide for the dad who wants a fun way to get his feet wet as a homeschool teacher.