Pinewood Derby Fun

January 29th, 2008

We’ve been fortunate to have a few unseasonably warm days to enjoy being outside. A cold front returns tonight but not before I hope to get a little more work accomplished. It was a busy, fun weekend however. The annual Pinewood Derby was held for the Cub Scouts, and everyone had a lot of fun. Our young Tiger Cub enjoyed it tremendously- it was the first Pinewood Derby for any of us. We built a neat little car together, and it did pretty well overall. Not a first-place finisher, but a respectable fourth out of nine in his den. All the boys received ribbons for making a car and participating, and it was exciting to watch.

The Cub Scout Pack purchased a nice aluminum track last year from donations raised by local business. With a good track, the race becomes more fair for all the kids. Previously they had an old, bumpy wood track that would throw cars off during the race. Pinewood Derby cars only “race” with the aid of gravity, and must meet certain specifications as to size and weight. The physics of optimal car design is quite interesting, and takes a lot of detail work in order to have a really fast car. Otherwise, the car design is left up to the kids, usually with the help of the parent. Of course some parents take it far too seriously, but that’s true with everything I suppose. This track could race two cars at once, but some Pinewood Derby races involved 4-6 cars at a time, using electronic timers at the finish line! We used two volunteer off-duty police officers at the finish line to rule on the winning cars.

Pinewood Derby track set up before the race

Our Tiger Cub’s car is on the right, getting ready to race.

A front view of two pinewood derby cars at the starting line

Here’s a side view about to race a larger bright red car – the bright red car took “Best in Show” but the young boy’s “puppy car” was faster! (See the little puppy in the window?!)

Pinewood derby cars getting ready to race

The third place race was a tie the first time, so they ran another race. In the next race our scout’s car zoomed side-by-side down the track against his competitor, and was nudged out of third place by a nose. It was fun to watch!

Pinewood cars racing down the track


     It was a nice time for everybody, if not a little crazy after 3 hours! The kids especially enjoyed it, and it was nice to see them learn about sportsmanship and cheering for each other, as well as the fastest cars. It’s mostly about working together to create something, and then see a tangible result of that effort when competing with other boys and cars. It’s really not about winning, although everyone wants to win and get a trophy. But I think the lessons are valuable, and most of the boys realize that the reason the fastest cars won was because they were the most carefully designed with the most amount of effort put into them.

     So much of scouting involves learning how effort can translate to achievement in life no matter what the undertaking. We also help the kids understand how they can be proud of themselves for a job well done regardless of the outcome, to feel good about the success of others, and to enjoy participating and sharing with friends. So many other lessons that I’m sure some of you could explain too.  If you’ve had a Pinewood Derby story we would love to hear about it! There was also an award for the “Most Creative” car design which happened to be a very slow car, but one carved and painted as a fire engine that a boy took a lot of time to make. Next year we may have a “Turtle Race” for the slower cars… :)


2 Responses to “Pinewood Derby Fun”

  1. The wheels on my sons’ cars always fell off.

  2. Oww! :) Well, maybe they make the car kits better these days, although it’s still a big nail and plastic wheel. We used a bunch of glue to make sure that sucker stayed in!

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