Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Pinewood Derby

When I was in Cub Scouts, I only remember participating in the Pinewood Derby once. I was in a head-to-head race against a kid a grade behind me. I lost. To this day, I’m convinced that he either pushed his car or started early which would have led to a disqualification or at least a do-over.* It did not. He was declared the winner, and I never really thought about the Pinewood Derby again…until several months ago.

When Pedro Tulo joined Cub Scouts this school year, the Pinewood Derby was listed as one of the featured activities. At a late fall pack meeting, we received a box containing the car. And by car, I mean a block of wood, four tires, and four nails. What was I supposed to do with this?

I have no recollection of making a car as a kid, and I had no idea how to make a car as an adult. There is a wood shop at the local Scouts camp, but we weren’t available during any of the open time slots. Fortunately, the dad of another scout had some equipment, so we went over to their house. We spent at least an hour essentially cutting the block of wood in half and then sanding down the rough edges. So now we had half a block of wood, four tires, and four nails.

I bought a weight specifically used for Pinewood Derby cars, and we screwed it into the top of the wood. I learned that the key to doing well in the Pinewood Derby is to have a car as close as possible to 5 ounces, so we just painted the weight hoping that it would blend in. 

Then, we (well, I) managed to get on the wheels. The night before the race, we took the car to the test track and early check-in. The car weighed 4.95 ounces and successfully crossed the finish line every time. This was a huge win. Not a huge win is that I realized in the middle of writing this post that I don't have a final picture of the car. We were unable to participate in the race itself due to a prior engagement/celebration, so the den leader currently has Pedro Tulo's car. With the exception of a few more stickers and some more paint, this is close to the final version.

I have a video of the race, but I feel like I'd need consent by the dozen or so scouts/parents in it in order to share it. You're definitely not missing the most exciting 7-second video in history. Here's a still shot though.

Pedro Tulo's car won! (Assuming that you don't count the other car not pictured that finished before his car.) While I'm glad that I was able to spend time with Pedro Tulo building the car, and I think he enjoyed the experience (especially going shopping for stickers), like the overnight campout, this is another Cub Scout activity that is certainly out of my comfort zone.

* While it's quite possible that the Pinewood Derby race track in 2023 is the same as it was when I was I kid, I don't remember an automatic start. I feel like we were supposed to just let the car go at the same time, and that's why I think I lost from the other kid cheating. Now, you just put your car in position, and someone essentially flips the switch to start. 

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