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Posts posted by gpraceman2

  1. The newer BSA wheels have definitely been a nice change, for the most part.


    Unfortunately, Revell has jumped in and has started producing wheels under a BSA license. These are made in China and the feedback that I have seen on these so far is not so good. It is like taking a step back to the older wheels.



    I understand trying to keep costs down, but BSA is an American organization and increasingly the stuff you buy from BSA is being made in China. It seems that they should make more effort to provide things made in USA.


  2. Is this thread about how to slap together a Pinewood Derby Race at the last minute. No!!! Some recently resurrected old PWD threads on this forum and lots of personal experience dealing customers purchasing last minute race software from my company got me to thinking about that.


    Putting on a good race takes time and planning. Some packs may try to slap a race together at the last minute, but that often doesn't lead to good experience for the racers or their families. So many different types of problems can crop up and need some time to get resolved.


    It is better to start the ball rolling at least a couple of months before the race. Pull the track, timer and race software out of storage as soon as possible. If there are any problems with these, you will need some time to rectify them.


    Setup the track and check if it has experienced any damage and might be in need of repair. Some have experienced water damage, some have had all sorts of stuff piled on top of them while being stored, and some track pieces may have gone missing. The worst case scenario is that the track is unusable and you need to find another pack that you can rent or borrow a track from.


    Test the timer out with the computer that will be used for the race. The majority of the tech support calls and emails that we receive are regarding timer communication problems. Often it is an issue with a USB to Serial Adapter, but we have seen problems with cabling, start switches, the timer units themselves, and the computers being used. With USB to Serial Adapters, as with any USB device, there are device drivers that must be installed so the software can communicate with the timer. Windows will not normally find these drivers for you and install them, so you need to have the drivers that come with adapter or download the latest ones from the manufacturer's website.


    Practice with whatever race software that you will be using. Make sure to run a complete mock race so you know the flow of the software and steps to take along the way. You don't necessarily need to have your timer available for that (depending on the race software, that is), but it can help. Think of scenarios that you might encounter and how you will deal with them (ties, cars not finishing, latecomers, someone accidentally not registered, timer malfunction, computer problems, etc).


    Make sure that your race crew is organized. If you can do a practice run with the race crew, that is ideal. If not, make sure at least that everyone knows their job. Below are some good resource sites to help you in planning and preparing for your race.


    Derby Talk forum - http://derbytalk.com

    GrandPrix Race Central - http://grandprix-race-central.com


    If you have the luxury of setting up everything the night before the race, that helps greatly. Our pack has been able to do that and we even do check-in that night. Some years we have also been able to provide racers with a couple of runs down the track (no timing or head-to-head races) to make sure that the cars can at least finish. Race day is far less stressful since all cars are already checked-in and everything tested. Just power everything back up and give it one last test.


    Lastly, have a Pinewood Derby notebook that you pass on from race coordinator to race coordinator. Include in it setup instructions for the track/timer/software, any special way the pack runs the race, budgets, race crew job responsibilities, and so on. It is hard enough for a new race coordinator to put on a good race, but it is even harder when they don't have anything turned over to them.(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)

  3. We appreciate the feedback on the GrandPrix Race Manager software.


    Early on with the software we received lots of feedback from users that they wanted to run their race one way or the other and not be locked into a certain way. It definitely has been a balance trying to provide that flexibility but not making the software overly complex. As each new version has come out, we have been working on simplifying tasks and making things more intuitive but still giving our more advanced users more freedom to customize. However, the flexibility that the software provides does mean that users need to make some informed choices, like how they want to setup their race groups/subgroups, how to score each heat and which scheduling method to use. There are pros and cons that need to be considered.


    We welcome feedback from our users and implement many of those suggestions as we release new versions of the software, so please keep the suggestions coming.(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)

  4. @The Blancmange: Lots of options for scoring and brackets.


    To clarify, GrandPrix Race Manager does not support elimination brackets. The only form of elimination supported is if you wanted to run multiple rounds, but within each round everyone will race an equal number of times.

  5. These new wheels are starting to show up at more scout shops. Still, it is very hit and miss to find them. So far, people have only reported having found them in black and yellow and just in the wheel/axle sets, not in the car kits.


    Packs, districts and councils should take a look at their rules and see if there will be issues with these new wheels. The new wheels are significantly lighter, slightly smaller in diameter and have coned hubs.

  6. Here's some photos of the new wheels and axles










    Old axle (longer) next to new axle (shorter)









    This is the response that I got from Bill Launius at Derby Worx:


    "Ok, here is the deal. I was in meetings with the B.S.A. last week in Charlotte, NC so I have the REAL SKINNY and the wheels too!!!


    The B.S.A. had the current molds as they put it Cleaned up, repaired or replaced since they were getting old and worn. Some of the molds dated back to 1985. THESE up-dated wheels have been slowly introduced into the supply chain since some time late January (I and National supply are surprised that more people have not seen them yet). The B.S.A. dose not consider this to be a big change or improvement, just a reworking of the existing designs due to age and wear, also it is not a announced change or improvement as some of the crazies think it should be and no one was informed at national supply outside of purchasing. I dont understand why everyone thinks the B.S.A. should make like perfect parts for the Pinewood Derby, the real beauty of PWD is teaching, showing and correcting the little imperfections of the existing kit and truly succeeding as a father and son team, if everything is PREFECT then what?


    We have several fresh sets that were given to us by the purchasing agent we work with for experimental reasons but there will be a period that we see both designs (whether it is fair or not, the B.S.A. understands very little about the performance and fundamentals of PWD) then once the old existing ones are gone this will be the current wheel. There will be a pretty good period in which the old design is around with existing stock and colored wheels on national supplys shelves.


    My bet is the old wheel (in a good base piece) will be still desired and very fast.


    Hope this helps.



  7. I got an email from Pinewood Extreme, one of the online derby suppliers, about some forthcoming changes to the official Pinewood Derby kit. The statement from Pinewood Extreme is below (bad grammar and all).




    The new wheel is changes everything. New Molds, New Internal Design, Lighter at 2.6grams, Smaller Diameter, Reduced and Tapered Hub.


    There is a new Axle nail too!"


    Personally, I think changes to the wheels and axles are well overdue. I think the amount of work required on them has discouraged many scouts from participating in their Pinewood Derby race or from being as competitive if they do. On the axles, I am hoping that BSA is dumping the nails for machined pins, like Awana and some other organizations use. Those type of axles require much less work to get them race ready. Though, this announcement does use the term "nail", so maybe they are not making that extreme of a change.


    See also this discussion on Derby Talk for a sneak peek photo of the new wheel design, http://www.derbytalk.com/viewtopic.php?f=37&p=45772#p45772


    New wheels and axles may require some packs, districts and councils to tweak their rules. They will also have to consider whether they will be allowing the older wheels and axles.


    Hopefully, we will be able to get more information soon on the extent of wheel and axle changes.

  8. ScoutMomSD - "I have been to Highlands Ranch, did a project with Centura years ago. Its a pretty sanitized version of Denver. Even the garage sale signs have to be pre-approved."


    Not sure where you got your info. No one I know needs to get a garage sale sign pre-approved. Highlands Ranch is like many areas, it appeals to some but not to others. Same can be said for SD ;-) I lived there for 16 years and would rather live here. HR has great schools, is close to everything, low low crime, four great rec centers to take advantage of, and property values are holding up pretty well (can't say the same for the house we sold in SD which has lost over $100K in value). But, to each his own.


    As for South Park (the show), I am rather surprised that people can go for that type of comedy. The dad committing suicide for not winning the PWD really put me off. I didn't watch much past that.


    scoutldr - "Well that didn't work so well...they definitely "looked like" Brownie vests."


    I think just the fact of them being brown in color would give people that impression.


    What I didn't like about that commercial was the "hands-off" dad. PWD is supposed to be a joint project of a child working with an adult. With the adult being the mentor and helping out where the kid is not able. That goes back to Don Murphy, the founder of PWD. Of course, there are many adults that go too far, but the "hands-off" adult is the other extreme that is definitely present in these races.

  9. I am definitely in the camp with those that believe that once a car passes inspection, it should not then be later disqualified for something that should have been caught at inspection. That would be punishing the cub for the inspector's mistake. Instead, you make a note of that problem and address it for next year's race.

  10. Looks like we've got two topics thrown together here. First, on the Subaru commercial...


    Buffalo Skipper - "Looked like a BestTrack to me. I imagine they enjoyed the quiet plug."


    Actually, it was a Micro Wizard track and timer. I heard from the owner of MW that they had it all overnighted for the shoot. Shipping must have been rather costly! Hopefully, after they shot the commercial they donated the track and timer to some deserving group.


    On the uniforms, I have a feeling that Subaru didn't want to pay any licensing fees (especially to BSA), so they tried to make the boy's uniforms deliberately not look like they were from any particular organization.




    Now, as for South Park. Never watch the show, but my interest was piqued when I heard they were doing a PWD episode. I could only take about 10 minutes of that show. Now I know why I don't watch South Park (sacreligious, I know, since I am from Colorado and live close to South Park).

  11. Unless BSA has updated the little insert in the kits, I read the following:


    "Important: The Race Committe should decide on rules and race procedures, then have them printed and distributed to all participants at least two weeks before the race."


    The so called "Official BSA rules", consititue a small paragraph on the sheet included in the car kits. Many feel that these are quite insufficient, so they put out their own rules, which BSA looks to officially condone.


    I do agree that the sheet does not state a required spec for wheelbase. With a rather inexpensive tool (Pro Body Tool), racers can drill their own axle holes instead of using the possibly crooked slots. So, I do feel that any rule restricting wheelbase is obsolete and should be eliminated. However, having said that, our district has a rule that the nail tips must be visible, even if the axle slots are not used. I agree with that, since there are axles from other kits or available aftermarket that are machined pins, not nails. The pins have a blunt end. We just have racers drill a hole in the bottom of the car so the nail tip is visible.


    It seems this sheet was published back in 1997, and I assume has not been changed since then. A lot has happened with Pinewood Derby since 1997! There are now inexpensive tools available from numerous online suppliers that can help scouts do what used to require much more expensive tools, which most racers did not have access to.


    Back in 1997, there also was not the issue of people easily being able to buy fully or mostly built cars. There is a statement at the beginning of the kit insert sheet that says "Cars should be built by the Cub Scout with some adult guidance". Notice the word "should", not "must", and also notice that this is not included in the "rules" section. So, it can seem to some people that it is not prohibited to buy fully or mostly completed car. It is taken as a suggestion.


    Yet, with inexpensive tools now available and people being able to easily buy fully or mostly built cars, the "rules in the box" have not kept up. We are well past time for an overhaul!!!(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)

  12. I'm not fond of the pre-cut kits, regardless of who sells them. However, I am not against them. I'd rather have someone get one of those than purchase a fully or mostly built car. There is still plenty to do to get the car in running order.


    Besides, I have heard of many workshops that have used bandsaws to cut out the cars. It ends up being the adult cutting it out and then handing it to the kid to start sanding. I certainly would not have the kids use a bandsaw for safety reasons! One church I attended was paranoid about liability, so they would not let the kids use even a scrollsaw for their cars (Awana Grand Prix). Letting someone else do the cutting is really not much different than buying a pre-cut car body.


    Many packs do not even offer workshops (really sad). Again, I'd rather have someone get a pre-cut kit, since they can at least finish it off with simple tools, some sandpaper, and paint. Not many people have a scrollsaw, bandsaw, or even a coping saw.

  13. Twocubdad - "I think we should all go on eBay and flame this guy"


    If only it were that easy. It is not just one guy, it is quite a few. Even one of the major online derby suppliers started carrying fully and mostly built cars.


    Anyways, I've had discussions with many past and present sellers and they will try to justify what they do in anyway they can. Some have sent me some rather nasty replies and basically told me to mind my own business. No U.S. laws are being broken, so eBay is not going to do anything about it. IMO, if the cheating aspect bothered these guys at all, then they wouldn't be selling these cars.


    I do like your PWD Racer's Code of Ethics idea. It would be nice if BSA would include something like that in the "rules in the box".

  14. evmori - "So does the Pack have a rules for the Pinewood that state no pre-built cars are to be used & a new car must be used each year? If not, no cheating is occurring."


    A very good point. I do think many rules are poorly written and open up these avenues for people to go against the intent of the rules, if not the letter of them.


    OKC_Scouter - "Unfortunately, with the exception of the rule "Cars should be built by the Cub Scouts" (which can be difficult to prove at best), there is nothing in the rule sheet included in each derby kit that would disqualify an engineered car bought on eBay. This is why units should always distribute their own official rules well in advance of the race."


    I agree that the rules in the box are quite inadequate, yet for many packs, that is all they go by! They do not put out their own set of rules.


    "Cars should be built by the Cub Scouts" - I would hope that no pack would have their rules written in this way! When Don Murphy founded Pinewood Derby, he intended it as project where a child works with an adult. It would be better to state that the child should do their fair share of the building of their car (again - within their physical and mental capabilities). The adult is there to teach, manage the project, and to finish up what the child is not able to do. Of course, managing the project can be a challenge, due to a child's short attention span. Tasks can be broken up and spread across time to help with that.



    For some other ideas on keeping eBay cars out of your race, see this Derby Talk thread, http://derbytalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=2520

  15. OneHour - "... but be careful that it has its flaws as well!"


    All tracks have their pros and cons, so it is worth doing some research before buying. Most all of the different commercially available tracks have been discussed on the Tracks forum of Derby Talk, so you can see what people using and running on these tracks say about them. Of course, you can also check out the information posted on the manufacturer's website.

  16. It might be tough to find anyone willing to part with their 4 to 6 lane alumninum track, unless the pack is dissolving.


    Occassionally, you will see tracks for listed on eBay or on the Trading Post on Derby Talk, http://derbytalk.com.'>http://derbytalk.com. Shipping can be rather expensive and I'd be worried about how the average Joe would package it up, unless you are extremely fortunate that they are in driving distance. Some people will sell their practice tracks, but those are generally two lane tracks.


    Maybe you can do a fundraiser and get the added money to purchase a new track. A 4 lane 32-35ft track will run about $900, including shipping. A 3 lane 32-35ft track will run about $700, including shipping. With the 3 lane track, you could add a lane later to make it a 4 lane, but it can be a bit of a pain and there is added expense to change out all of the support brackets and start gate.


    One last note, I'd recommend against anything more than a 4 lane track. I have too many of my software customers complain each year that it takes them too long to run race on 6 or 8 lane tracks. My recommendation to them is to run on only 4 lanes. Maybe you can find a pack in your area with a 6 or 8 lane track that would be willing to split it into two tracks. I've heard of it being done.


    Stop by Derby Talk, http://derbytalk.com. About anything pertaining to building the cars and running the races is discussed there. There are also forums for Raingutter Regatta, Space Derby and Cubmobile races.(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)

  17. Having a shiny car may very well cause a problem with a finish line sensor. This is especially true if the track surface is reflective (metal or even a glossy finish).

    If the bottom of the car is shiny, then light can bounce off of the track surface and underside of the car to cause problems with the sensor detecting the car passing over. There is at least one timer manufacturer that warns of this issue.


    One countermeasure is to paint a flat black stripe across the finish line area to reduce the chance of light bouncing off of the track. Another countermeasure is to recess the track sensors a bit more into the track so they are peering through a short tunnel up at the light source.

  18. Twocubdad - "We had a very large pack, 100+ boys. When I became CC, I looked at the Perfect-N method which use software to generate race heats that correct for match-ups and lane variations. I figured that if we could run one heat every 2 minutes it would take us something like 16 hours to run the race."


    I'm not sure how you got the 16 hour figure. Well, actually I think I know how you did.


    So, let's use 100 racers as an example. With a Perfect-N schedule, you will end up with 100 heats. If it took you 2 minutes to run each heat (really that is a rather slow pace) then it would take 200 minutes, or 3.33 hours. In those 100 heats, each racer will have run down each lane of the track once. Where I think your calculation was off was that you probably thought you needed to multiply by the number of lanes of the track, but that is not the case. Whether you have a 2 or a 6 lane track, it will still be 100 heats. If you don't believe me, try it yourself using the online chart generator at http://stanpope.net/ppngen.html


    Now for a real life example. For our pack race last year we ran a total of 99 heats in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. That gave each scout 8 total runs (twice down each lane of a 4 lane track) plus 4 total runs for our open division racers.


    Being able to have your schedule from heat 1 to n laid out before you can dramatically speed up your race. Print out the schedule and give it to whoever is in charge of getting the cars staged for each heat. Then as soon as one set of cars is racing down the track, you have the next set of cars ready to load on. With single, double, or whatever elimination, you don't know who is racing except for the current step on the ladder.


    This is all not to say you can't still have some form of elimination in a race (as some insist it isn't exciting enough not to eliminate racers). You can still run a multi-round format, like a Prelims and a Finals. In the Prelims, everyone gets an equal chance to race. Then advance the top racers to the Finals.


    Everyone runs in each lane of the track and does so an equal number of times. There's no "bad lane" excuse, as everyone runs in each lane. Plus, Perfect-N charts give each racer a variety of opponents to go up against.


    So, I really don't see why there are those that still insist on running a DE race.

    - It MAY (but not necessarily) give you the top two cars. Anything after 1st and 2nd place is really a shot in the dark.

    - It takes longer to run

    - It doesn't ensure each racer will run in each lane, so lane draw can more determine the outcome than the cars

    - Many racers are eliminated early on, so they lose interest and leave or start causing problems(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)

  19. > I'll just say, that as a guy who runs 10's of thousands of computers running

    > overnight modeling runs for trillions of dollars of securities, we use a lot of

    > open source (aka free) software, because not only is it sometimes better, but the

    > support we get from the developers (whom we do not pay) far outshines any support

    > we get from commercial software (whom we do pay).


    That can be true for some software, sometimes as you indicated, but not all times. It depends on the market, the software and the size of the user base.


    For the Pinewood Derby market, many of these freeware or shareware programs are developed by people for their own race and then put out on the public domain. That is laudable. However, when their boys move on to Boy Scouts, out of scouts altogether, or they just have the busyness of life creep in, getting support for these apps can be very hit or miss. So, in this market, I do think that old adage is more true than not, since a good part of a good app is getting support for it.


    Also, I cannot speak for the other commercial PWD software companies, but our derby software business is our full-time job. We pride ourselves in providing good software products and being there to provide support for them when needed.

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