Gretel will graduate this spring, but only if the Crone makes one last push on science projects. We are just a few credits short of cap and gown and so each weekend is a flurry of papers and checklists–does the Crone have what it takes to make sure her golden child will matriculate? This month has been devoted to the mousetrap car, a project that has been torturing parents of seniors since the time when houses actually did have old fashioned mousetraps in the junk drawer.
The purpose of the project is to illustrate something about energy. I am not sure quite what, but I do know the sweat, time and cash I have expended could have fueled a whole fleet of vermin-catching vehicles.
Last weekend I took the checklist to the hardware store because, unsurprisingly, we could not lay our hands on even basics like string or crazy glue, and were certain we didn’t have metal tubing (for axels), a mousetrap, or graphite powder in the house. I visited three different stores and spent about $20 but I was confident I had cracked it. We were still missing the graphite powder, but how important could that be?
I handed the project over to Hansel who immediately identified that we were missing two pieces of wood to act as the sides of the vehicle. He tried to improvize by bashing out two strips of thin aluminum from tealight casings, but the holes held the axels too tightly–no rotation, no rodent racer. He scooped all the materials into a bag and promised to return with a working car this weekend. Gretel barely looked up from “Bad Girls Club” to thank him.
Hansel called during the week. Trouble with the mach for the mousemobile? No, but he had a job for the weekend and couldn’t be around to deliver the finished product “Just send off for a kit and follow the instructions” he told me.
I did. The kit cost $7.95 and the shipping cost $15, but it was on the doorstep in Itchy Ankle when we arrived on Friday night. Gretel immediately opened the packet and then lost interest, abandoning the contents on the kitchen table.
By this afternoon, we could postpone the evil moment no longer: time to build a mousetrap car.
The instructions for the kit were written by an engineer who did not have English as his mother tongue. The illustrations were drawn by someone once sacked by IKEA. Stage one: cut the snapper arm on the mousetrap. Use sharp nosed pliers( not included). Off to the hardware store for these ($5.49) and some more superglue ($5).
Not even the most conscientious senior could complete this project unassisted. It takes one person to hold and one to glue. Gretel leant me a bored finger while she watched Football Wives on VH1.
The wheels included in the kit were 4 clear compact disks. At first, we could find only three on the kitchen table, slightly sticky from last night’s Thai red curry. Gretel began to fear she would see neither her graduation nor her 18th birthday (on Wednesday) when I explained, with some force, that I had not bought this wretched kit in order for her to spread its contents around the house and lose essential pieces before we had a chance to put them to work. She tore herself away from the TV and discovered that we did have four disk: two were stuck together. Coconut milk will do that.
It took an hour, a lot of fiddling around with rubber washers, zip ties and glue; a moderate amount of cursing and some very black looks but eventually our mousetrap car was reversed across the kitchen floor, fiddly piece of string rotating around the back axel. And then it propelled itself 5 feet forward and we were done. No-one was impressed and no-one knows what we were meant to learn. Gretel will take the Mickey Mouse Project to school tomorrow and I had better get an A for effort. The kit did include a tube of graphite powder, which was never mentioned in the instructions, so we still don’t know what it’s for. If you need some, you have only to ask…