Jan 312013

When it comes to cub scout crafts, there is no project more popular than the Pinewood Derby.  And while it’s supposed to be something fun for the scouts to do, it’s really more of a science project for the parents.

I hate science projects.

It’s not that the scientific work of others doesn’t interest me; it does.  It’s just that I was never good at scientific work.  And, if the past results of my high-school science project days were any indication, not only would I churn out a D-minus level derby-car, but I would wait until the night before the race to complete it.


Actually I didn’t complete the car until five minutes before the race started.  I had to borrow some weights (thanks Jim) and crazy glue (you to Karl) to bring the car up to a respectable/competitive 5 ounces.  And the derby race is nothing if not competitive.

After I had started working on the boy’s car, I looked up a few different websites to see how other people had designed their racers.  Our car was going up against the cars of physics teachers and engineers.  I’m sitting on a psych degree that’s slowly wasting away as I sit at home.  Advantage Engineer.

I was amazed at the level of design that people had put in to these cars.  They were grinding axles, lengthening wheel spans, redirecting the car’s center of gravity, and polishing wheels to name a few.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun for the kids.  Perhaps the older ones can handle all that, but I was afraid to let my son put the wheels on, let alone grind the axles.

All I wanted was a few tips on how to make the boy’s car better.  Once I saw how much work was involved, I decided we’d be better off to forget about the modifications and keep it simple.


For those of you not familiar with Pinewood Derby manufacturing, here’s a little info.  You start with a block of wood.


You then draw a design on it, cut it out, and sand it.


Paint it, slap some wheels on, and add some weights.  Those are the building basics.


Now out of that entire process, the only thing  my son could do (and I was hesitant to let him do so) was sand it down.  I wish I had a picture of him in front of the belt-sander, because he was digging it.  I also wish I had captured his reaction when I told him it was his turn to use the scroll saw.  It’s similar to the look you make when you realize you just sharted.


That’s the look.

Even though we didn’t make any modifications to the car, we still came in fourth place.  That is to say that if you ranked everybody from worst to best, we would have come in 4th.  At least he received another participation trophy.  Whatever happened to participation ribbons?  At least they fit nicely inside a shoebox.


The boy had a lot of fun and it was nice to finally see him enjoying something we’ve signed him up for.  Maybe next year, I’ll take the time to add some mods or perhaps I’ll let him contribute more to the building.  Better start sharpening those scroll saw blades now.

Check out the pictures from the derby — Cub Scout Crafts: Pinewood Derby



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