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kenk

Pinewood Derby: boy-built the night before

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My guess is that none of this is new to those who are involved in Cub Scouting. Come Derby day the cars that have been built by the sons of pack leaders are much faster than those built by the sons of non-leaders. As a matter of fact, for the last several years three of the five dens had the den leader's sons win first place for their age-class. In general it seems that the same boys win year after year.

 

I have no problems with parents helping the boys build their cars. That is completely natural, and I would assume that help would decrease proportionally as the boys get older and more capable.

 

To try to overcome the potential inequalities brought on by extensive parental involvement in the car-building process, our Council has suggested that the boys build the cars on the day of the race or the night before the race. They would not necessarily carve them and decorate them with markers or quick-drying paint.

 

I myself am in favor of some kind of Derby "reform", but not sure how such an extreme change would go over in my Pack.

 

Does anyone have advice on this?

 

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Well, this is not an answer to your problem. Just an extension of it. While I can't say that I have seen the increased success of Leader's son's cars over non-leader's son's cars, there is certainly a problem with too much parental help. Annual parental comments that begin with "You won't believe how much time I spent....." and fathers who won't even let thier son touch the car on race day are common.

 

We hold a PWD car building session at the local firehouse for who ever needs help cutting and shaping the cars. Boys can also decorate during this time. However, the "problem" parents don't show up for this. Perhaps if we made it necessary for all cars to be constructed at this session (well, there would have to be more than one) AND turned in there, that might help. But that would require a lot of time on the part of the PWD organizers.

 

We also make the boys carry their own cars to check in. Having strict inspection requirements are also necessary to prevent any intentional advantages.

 

Looking forward to others success stories.

 

Jerry

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In our pack, and I think our district too (maybe even larger, i'm not sure) weigh ins are the night before, so their last additions to their car has to be made before 8:00pm the night before the derby. After the weigh in, the CM takes the cars home and the boys don't see them again until they're just about to race them. If you make sure everyone is equal the night before, any advantages (unintentional or otherwise) should be caught the night before. If this is done parent-help, non-parent help should'nt really be an issue.

 

Just putting in my 2 cents worth :)

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Hmmm, I just had an idea that is based upon the notion that one of the secrets of PWD is the axle polishing & alignment.

 

What if we give the boys just the block of wood ahead of time and let them carve it and paint it as they wish ...

 

 

... and then the day of (or night before) the derby they have to come together for wheel assembly. They would be given a stock set of wheels and axles and have to install them on site. We could even paint the ends of the axles some color ahead of time so we can tell if "custom" axles are brought in.

 

We already have a weighing & adding weight process before the race where we do our best to make sure all cars are maximum weight.

 

One of the real problems with the stock axles (nails) is that they are pressed - so there are nasty flashings sticking out of the sides that really slow the cars down.

 

DOES ANYONE KNOW IF SOMEONE MAKES "CLEAN" PWD AXLES??

 

If so, maybe we could buy enough to distribute in place of the stock axles??

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Typically (and I think it even states so in the kit's rules) ONLY the stock wheels and axles that are included in the kit can be used. To combat the issue with the wheels you describe, light sanding of the axles is allowed. Also, dry graphite is the only thing allowed as lubricant on the axles and wheels. No wet lubricant.

 

There is always a few people that we fail at the inspection table because they don't pay attention to rules and have to change their wheels and/or axles. This is particularly painful for those who glued their axles (which you should do!)

 

Also, as redfox does, we also do not return cars after inspection.

 

Jerry

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In our pack, we, too, have a pwd workshop day where we (the den leaders who have sons with competitive cars) taught all of the tips and tricks that we know of. We even provide the tools and lubricants. If the father/son team wants to know, we teach them. We send out these tips and tricks and a hoard of pwd urls that we found on the Internet that seem to help us. Results? Since we started this 4 years ago, every cub's car finished the race. Many carry our tips and tricks to a competitive level, ie. ... very minimal time separation between 1st and 20th place. Of course there will be those whose father/mother does not even want to help with their son's car. At the workshop, every year we and some of the cubs would build 4-10 cars from scratch on that day. By the time that a Tiger reaches Webelos, he and his parent (supposedly mostly by the cub) would have refined their skills in building the car ... and the competition is really at a high level.

 

 

1Hour

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Our pack's solution was to...

 

1. add a few rules to minimize high-tech, high-priced advantages (original wheels and axles could be polished and sanded but not lathed, no hub caps, etc.)

 

2. de-emphasise speed by making popularity votes and so on equally important.

 

3. spend a little time pre-teaching that this is supposed to be a parent-son bonding activity, with the boy doing whatever he can himself and the parent providing support and tool expertise.

 

4. workshop nights run by the dads with the hottest shops and skillz so anyone interested gets about the same level of help.

 

5. weigh-in/inspection, then lock up. Boy MUST present his own car. A brief talk with each Cub usually shows who did what.

 

6. parent run-offs. Let the gear-heads build their own car under their own name and race between heats. Better yet- make'em PAY to race and have grudge matches, etc. This solved the problems of our worst parent. We put one of our other bad ones in charge of the idea (yes- that WAS evil! Thank you!)

 

7. a rumor was going around that cars that were discovered to have been mostly parent-built would not be allowed to run next year. I have NO IDEA how that rumor started. It wasn't true in any case.

 

 

 

This was a cyclical thing for us- BIG problem the first year, almost no problem for a couple years, then popping up again.

 

 

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I like the concept of building the car then immediately racing it. But there is not a lot a boy can do with a block of wood without adult assistance. Maybe have three-four ready made, roughed-in models for the boys to pick and glue things on. Other than painting, glueing and sanding there isn't a lot an 8-9 year old boy can do with a block of pine.

 

At the Mall of America they have lego races. Four big bins of legos with lego wheels are available for the boys to build a car and race it down a short track. Some cars run fast, some crash, others just fall apart going down the ramp. The kids have a great time.

 

I would still keep the actual pine wood derby in its present form but add an aditional build-n-race meeting.

 

 

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PWD - it's an obsession with some parents. That it is an annual event makes it compulsive for these same parents. Swell! Cub scouting has its own obsessive-compulsive disease . Is there a 12-step recovery program for it ?

 

I made a suggestion at the last PC meeting: a scale-model competition. The entry must be a model of an open-cockpit race car, with photographs of the original car submitted with the model. The only restrictions were the wheels, axels, size, clearance, and weight because they are going to be raced, and a driver figure, detail painted, of course. Shoulda seen all of the "donations to the pack's bank account after the meeting.

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We have the leaders with the top car technology hold workshops. Advertise it as the way to come learn the secrets. Make it a matter of pride to attend the workshops and "learn from the masters."

 

We do not allow wheel modifications of any kind. Must use stock axles. Polishing only and no lathe work.

 

For those dads who gotta strut their stuff, we have a special "Unlimited" class for their own entries to race against each other- no weight limit, no modification limit- the only rule is that it has to fit on the track.

 

CMM

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A lot of packs run Grizzly and Honeybear races- after the boys, for Moms and Dads. The theory is that if the parents spend more time tricking out their own car, the Cub is left to do more of the work on his. We're doing this for the first time this year, so I don't know how many of our concerns it will solve, but we have to try.

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We encourage parents to participate in our "Outlaw" derby. The rules are simple size and weight are per regulation, the rest is up to the builder. This usually keeps medling hands out of the boys cars. Many of the parents, myself included, put a lot of hours into building the cars. The nice other thing about this is it gives the boys some ideas for next year.

 

Alan

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This year we are going to plan a workshop to rough out the cars for the boy.

 

 

 

The ultimate crime in cub scouts is to see the boys that actually work on their car see the cars that were built by men.

The next year those parents with distraught boys use any means they can to get their boys car to go faster. The problem feeds on itself.

 

I HAVE NO GOOD SOLUTION. There have been good suggestions by many here.

Our "Outlaw" class has no restriction. One year I wrapped the block with duct tape and four POUNDS of lead bars(I called it "just plain ugly") I thought it would fly right through the wall. it wound up being too heavy for the wheels.

Another Dad made a snowboarder from a GI JOE that stood atop the car. Each run it made it half way down the track and wrecked just like "the agony of defeat." The kids loved it.

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The fascination with this specific subject is amazing, as witnessed in so many past threads. I almost did it myself. It is best to require that a 500 pound stick be used when beating a dead horse which would mean that fewer of us would even try. The large amount of emotional energy expended on this topic should make it a fit topic for the Sunday pulpit on a regular basis.

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I agree there is no easy solution to this. But does there really need to be? I think the only realistic answer is to relax and let it be.

 

Encourage the parents to let the boys do the work, and then hope they do. Honestly, I think it bothers the parents more than the boys.

 

We make all the restrictions to keep everyone's car equal, and we have the open race for everyone after the boys race. Other than that we let the boys, big and small, just have fun and we really enjoy seeing the different styles and varieties the adults (mmmm...I mean... the boys) have come up with.

 

The big boys live vicariously through the small boys. The adult gets a thrill out of building the car, and the scout gets a thrill out of racing the car.

 

It is very sad, though, to see the boy who DID make his own car look at the other cars made by the adults. That boy is crushed. It takes a very caring group of leaders to give that boy lots of praise for the hard work he did.

 

If you really want the boys to do ALL the work themselves, the Pinewood Derby should be a Boy Scout event, not a Cub Scout event.

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