Skip to main content

Pinewood Derby


00027
Originally uploaded by todbookless
Last weekend was Alexander's Cub Scout pack's annual Pinewood Derby. If you are unfamiliar with this tradition, it is a contest where the Cubs get a small block of pine, 4 plastic wheels, and 4 nails to use as axles. They cut out and decorate their cars however they like. The cars are put on a track and race downhill powered by gravity alone. They can't weigh more than 5 ounces, but otherwise the kids can really do what they like with the cars for the most part.

I have a certain amount of bad feelings around this event from my Cub Scout days. My parents never attended a meeting with me, or helped in any way, and when it came time for the derby, my dad kind of left me to it. This is supposed to be a project that the kids do with the parents, but my Dad was busy watching sports on TV or sleeping, and my Mom was reading a book. Needless to say, my car was extremely lame. For decoration, Dad gave me some very old house paint. This was the 1970's mind you, so even new house paint was tacky. There was no effort to get my car close to the correct weight or anything, so my car looked stupid and performed terribly.

I am the first to admit that I am not a perfect parent. My goals are modest - I try to do better than my parents (a pretty low bar, actually), and to not do the bad things that I hated my parents to do. For example, my dad was always trying to freeze me to death with outdoor activities in the winter and I spent a fair amount of my youth in stage one hypothermia. This was not aided by my father's unwillingness to purchase me warm clothing or decent shoes because, of course, I would just outgrow them. I am sure that I am traumatizing my son in new and interesting ways, but I hope that I can at least avoid some of the obvious errors of my parents. When it came time for the Pinewood Derby this year I vowed to do better.

I organized our shop downstairs and purchased a scroll saw and a bench sander. Combined with other tools that I had, we had a pretty good Pinewood Derby workshop. I invited all of the Scouts and their parents over on the 2 Saturdays preceding the race so anyone who needed help and access to tools could get it. Several kids and their parents took me up on that offer. We were blessed by no rain on either Saturday, so I set up a paint station outside with a few kinds of paint. Other kids used markers and stickers. We also had a scale and helped kids add weight so they could get their cars up to five ounces so they would be competitive.

Alex designed the layout of his car. It was a pretty simple design. He was wanting to make an amphibious car so it looked kind of boat-like. I cut it out for him and he sanded and decorated it. Down at the hobby store we bought a little guy to sit in the cockpit and a little engine and exhaust pipes to glue on. It was not that fancy or elaborate, but it was what Alex wanted to make and he was happy with it.

At the race, all of the kid's cars looked great, and all of the den leaders helped all of the kids finish off any last issues with their cars. Some were too light, some too heavy, and some were too low and dragged on the track. We all made sure that every kid could have a competitive run. We talked to the kids about sportsmanship before the race, but I don't think that they needed it. They all cheered each other and were great. Alex won first place in his den, and third overall. His simple design was a good idea. I made a crazy, illegal, car that had a CO2 rocket in it. I thought the kids would laugh and I ran it a few times while the score keeper was tabulating results. It could finish the track in under a second! It seemed like all of the kids had fun and hopefully they will have good memories of the Pinewood Derby when it is time to help their kids race.

Comments

Anthogna said…
Oh the Pinewood Derby. I do have many fond memories of those. I think I even won something one year at the Pack level but once we got to the big event at The Mall in Hays I got blown out. We never had anything as organized as you for construction...I remember late-night trips to the post office to weigh the car on the postal scale so we would add only the allowable number of fishing line sinkers to the bottom of the car. I haven't decided if we'll be doing scouts when mine is of age, but it was great fun.

Popular posts from this blog

How To Make School Lunches More Nutritious: Re-Define Words

If you are a parent of a child who attends public school in Washington, and if you have even a vague recollection of the food pyramid , you probably will have noticed that the lunches that are served in school cafeterias are frequently at odds with the rules of good nutrition. The school is not wrong, however. They have just re-defined words and you are not keeping up. Pop quiz:  Cheese belongs to what food group? *bzzz* - wrong. You said that cheese was in the diary food group , right? No! Pbth! How boringly accurate of you. Cheese magically transforms into a protein when it is served on pizza or in a bread stick! I know that you may be dubious, but I contacted Wendy Barkley, RD,  who is the Acting Supervisor of School Nutrition Programs in the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and she assured me that it is so. To quote her email to me: " Pizza remains an option for schools for their menus.  The cheese on pizza is counted as a protein in t

Global Entry - The TSA Trusted Traveler Program - or - How to Go In The Short Line At The Airport Security

Ever since September 11th, 2001, flying has been a hassle. With each failed attempt to smuggle explosives on an airplane, the TSA makes us get more undressed at airport security. In fact, for really early morning flights, we should probably all just show up in our jammies and then get dressed once we are through the scanner because currently we get up, get dressed, go to the airport, get half undressed, go through security, and then get dressed again. For quite some time, people have been asking the TSA so implement some kind of pre-screening program where travelers could have a background check in advance, and then be allowed to go in a shorter line. That day is finally here, and the TSA is now rolling out a Trusted Traveler Program known as Global Entry . In a nutshell, you pay $100, fill out some online forms, go in for an interview, present your proof of ID, and get fingerprinted and photographed. Yes, it sounds like some red tape, but then, every time you make an airline reser

Rooftop Playgrounds

This week I have had some meetings in a tall building in downtown Seattle, and when I took a moment to look around and enjoy the view I have noticed playgrounds on rooftops. I saw this daycare playground: and this playground on top of a school: I think that this is a really cool use of space. A friend that grew up in NYC said that her school had a rooftop playground, too. The delinquent in me wonders how many toys and balls go over the side, but I bet the teachers are pretty strict about that. Downtown Seattle has always seemed a little unfriendly towards kids and it is neat to see spaces being carved out.