First, the pinewood derby is a car race for cub scouts. The boys can build their small cars into anything they want to. And believe you me, they can get super creative in what they choose to do. They try to win first place for speed and be creative doing it.
The pinewood derby car is a small piece of wood and a kit with the wood, wheels, nails, and numbers that you can personalise and make yours! (And if you have no clue of where to buy a pinewood derby car, you can go here to the boy scout of America shop and find your local shop by zip code).
My kids love to look forward to this every year with Pack 33 in Takoma Park, Maryland.
The last two years, this one included, my girl scouts have joined. How awesome is my pack??! Love them! They have allowed my girls to race right after my boy scouts.
Why should girls get to do the pinewood derby? You may hear girls that may do the powder puff derby (cue my gag). So yeah, girls can not only do it, they can rock it! Usually it is my daisy who wins! Second year of my daisies winning. First year was Abbey, this year Romana took first place! Like what?! Go girls!
In the picture above, my daughter's friend, Clara has decided that she wants to join girl scouts after all the cool stuff they get to do. So Clara was turned into wanting to do scouting based on helping Via with her front door cookie booth and the pinewood derby. Super stoked.
10 Steps to building your awesome derby car!
1. Buy your derby car here at a local scout shop near you, just put in your zip code.
2. Grab your cars that you have had cut (this could be a pack, troop, or even at Home Depot)
3. Get sand paper of different sizes
4. You will start using the lowest, like in the picture, the red one is p100. It means it is more grittier.
5. You will then progress to using the finer and finer sandpaper. This will smooth it out so you can paint it.
6. Draw your design on it
7. Paint it
8. Sand your car and wheels
9. Add Wheels
10. Weigh it and add any weights and graphite
IMPORTANT rules: It can't be more than 5 Ounces!
You will be disqualified for racing if it is heavier. So beware of this rule.
Here are some AWESOME resources for you to help with building your pinewood derby car.
How to maximize it's speed and make a fast pinewood derby car secrets can be found here.
As a parent, I will tell you the same thing I told my 9 year old though, who had no problem pointing out that he only has one more year as a cub scout racing and was not happy about not getting 1st place. I think it is more about participating then winning. If you win, that is an extra joy. You can try the secrets above, pre plan your car a year in advance, but at the end of the day, some of it is just pure luck.
You can even so far as to watch this video to try to get science on your side. (Which is what my son tried to do). Sometimes it really is just luck.
Here is another basic guide to pinewood derby building. Again, sometimes to me, these work and sometimes they really don't.
Even here, there is a site called Pinewood Derby Pro... are they really? I don't know. I can say though, that it matters more to be that they try and work on it on their own.
The Boy Scouts of America even have a site dedicated to the Pinewood Derby.
Okay, so why does this all matter? If you have seen the movie Down and Derby, which I popped in just seconds ago for us in honour of our Pinewood Derby today, you know how incredibly intense the competition of the Pinewood Derby can get. Sadly, that happens more than you think.
You may not see boys cry often, but you may see them cry when they do not when the pinewood derby. Yes, my friends, the competition is stiff sometimes.
My son said to me tonight that all he ever wanted was to win the pinewood derby so the boys, his friends, would talk to him as a pinewood derby winner. I told him he already was because he did his car on his own.
What do I mean, "on his own"?
It literally means on his own. I can't say the following for my parents, because a lot of them follow the rules but I know a lot of parents don't. A lot of parents will make their kids' cars to help them win. That is how stuff the competition is.
EVERY PINEWOOD DERBY RACER who does it on their own, in my opinion, is a WINNER!!!
In fact, I wish Boy Scouts of America would make this part of advancement requirements for each level. The amount of energy that goes into this for the boys and how badly they want it, would make perfect for adding this as a component of advancement. That is just me as a leader though.
They work with wood, design, cutting, science, aerodynamics, nails, tools, etc. How fun right? There is so much work that goes into it and so much learned from it for the boys. That is why I think, not just a boy scout leader, but as a parent, that the boys hold most of the leadership in the car they are making.
If you are a parent who has just joined scouting-- welcome and have fun with it!
if you are a returning parent, remember to give your kids the reigns. If they lose the timed races, they are still a winner for trying and learning to lose is a part of life. A lot of it can be luck as well.
Every year, up until this year, somehow one of my scouts who spent little to no time on their car got first place every year. We had no clue how. So it really it about luck sometimes.
So however you race it, however you build it, paint it or envision it, do it with class and have fun!