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NateMom

Derby Car

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My sons pack just held a pinewood derby event. When we built the car the tires where fine and rolling. I gave it to be weighed in and the car was passed on to be placed on the table with other cars who where racing while we found seats and waited. During the race they had so many issues with software and decided to use cell phone footage to declare winner. The first 6 cars raced 3 times for testing cause malfunctions, then next 6 raced twice. My sons car was 50th out of 51. When they put his to race it was only car that the wheels malfunctioned and his didnt make it down the track. We didnt know why till we picked the car up and the back wheels that were freely moving where somehow jammed into the wood sides and stuck. When we noticed we asked if he could get his car to go down the track again and they said no and ignored us. Now my question is since BSA wont allow axels or spacers to prevent this I need suggestions. I dont know how it got jammed up in the car like that, because there was no problems the whole 3 weeks we had it. Like I said we dont care about winning and losing we just wanted to see his car make it to the end and if other cars went down more than once well he should had that chance.

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I’m sorry to hear your experience with the PWD didn’t go well.   While we don’t allow parents to adjust cars during the race (PWD is already crazy enough), we would allow quick minor repairs especially if a car does not make it down the track.   I’d recommend talking with the den leader or Cubmaster to provide some feedback.  

Our Pack also awards the 3 slowest cars (for this who unintentionally or intentionally are slower).  The slowest car wins Ess Car Go.  That is a fun adder for those scouts and it keeps more kids engaged during the entire race.

As far as tools to help, there are various tools that help ensure the axels is inserted correctly with the correct spacing.  You could use this the add a bit of glue to ensure the axel doesn’t move later.

http://www.hobbylinc.com/pine-car-pine-car-axle-placement-guide-pinewood-derby-tool-and-accessory-p4611?source=froogle&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5faYqYWw2QIVRbjACh3jggONEAQYBiABEgKpY_D_BwE

Good luck and hope future events go well.

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Our pack has simplified the PWD as much as humanly possible, and it has turned out GREAT for us. Here are some of the changes we made that have made things easier AND much more fun:

1. We don't have a 1st, 2nd or 3rd - instead, every boy received a participation medal, but then there are extra medals that encourage effort and success of all kinds. Our categories are Fastest Car, Slowest Car (what we call the "Marathon Winner"), Most Creative Car, Scout's Choice Award (the boys all vote on this one), and two other awards that change from year to year. This way, some cars are given prizes based on performance, others by specially chosen judges for effort put into them, and of course a car that the boys themselves get to choose as their favorite. Everybody gets a prize, but there is still the incentive to work hard for whichever award catches a boy's interest. 

2. We have totally eliminated all electronics from our PWD. We simply bring in three "Celebrity Judges" (usually from our CO leadership, which is nice to get them involved), and their final choice for each round is considered ABSOLUTELY FINAL. We make this expressly clear beforehand. And after each race they have only 60 seconds to decide who won that round (I have a Den Chief with a timer sitting right by them). This way we don't waste time deliberating over the winner, and we move through each round very quickly.

3. Our track has 4 lanes, so for each round of 4 cars, we have them race 4 times. We know that sometimes the speed of the car depends on which lane it runs on, so by running each set of 4 cars 4 times, switching lanes each time, we get the best idea which car from that set is the fastest. We go through the whole Pack by simply starting them all off in brackets of 4, and then racing the fastest cars from each group in sets of 4 in a simple process of elimination that eventually brings us to the final 4, out of which the Fastest Car is declared. We ALSO take the slowest cars from each set, and race them in rounds to determine who is our slowest, "Marathon Winner" (the only stipulation for these is that it has to make it all the way to the finish line to count - many of our boys consider this category even more desirable than the Fastest Car!).

4. Before the races even begin, we have a short talk about sportsmanship - with the parents! I like to talk about all the worst parents I have seen at these events, exaggerating their antics and then, of course, letting them know that naturally I know THEY would NEVER act so childishly, and that SURELY our parents will be good sports and not contest the decisions made, since of course that would be RIDICULOUS and a TERRIBLE example to our judges (sure it's passive-aggressive, but they get the point).

Hopefully some of these ideas will help make your next PWD a better event for you. Until then take advantage of the lessons your Scout can learn from this kind of an experience, and don't let it get you down!

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We glue the axles in my son's cars. There are all kinds of theories on why not to glue, being able to make adjustments to axles on race day, etc. But that's generally not practical for most packs and how they operate races. Our pack doesn't allow the kids or parents to even get their hands on the car on race day. Cars are checked in days before and that's it. Next time they see their car, it's on the track. So when a scout turns in a car, you want to be sure nothing moves. Once the axles are in, we just put a little bit of glue in the axle slot to keep things from moving. Krazy Glue works well, and it would really take a hammer to move the axles once it dries. I'd recommend that if you want a solution that pretty much guarantees that the axles won't be accidentally pushed in. 

It's unusual that some cars only race once or twice in your pack. On a 4-lane track the general strategy is to get each car in each lane at least once, so minimum 4 runs per car. That eliminates the differences in lane speed factor (there's almost always a "faster" lane on the track, or a bad lane). Without working software I'm sure it would be harder to track all of those races, and I'm guessing that's why fewer runs were done, but that's kind of a failure on the part of the pack, too. Ideally tracks and software should be tested (and preferably fully set up and ready to go) before race day. 

Edited by FireStone

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Hi NateMom, I'm sorry that your Pinewood Derby experience was disappointing.  I'd suggest you talk to your child's den leader and possibly go to the next committee meeting to discuss your concerns. You may want to join the PWD volunteers next year and work on suggesting some improvements.  Good luck!

Our PWD team does minor car repairs if cars don't function well, but it's on the spot and imperfect.  The cars get placed on take out trays after weigh-in and check in and they are minimally handled throughout the event. 

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\

On ‎2‎/‎18‎/‎2018 at 12:03 PM, Eagle1993 said:

 we would allow quick minor repairs especially if a car does not make it down the track.

Yes I agree 100% with this.  I had an instance where I had a Wolf's car just perform miserable and you could see it.  I called him and mom over ( in the middle of the race) and said 'lets look at this quickly"  we found come hot glue on the bottom of one the wheels.  problem fixed

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We have allowed minor repairs by boy only especially if wheels fly off in the excitement. The glue thing is tricky--do it wrong and you get glue on the wheel and it stops turning.

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Was reading this over and think I noticed something new.

On 2/18/2018 at 12:13 PM, NateMom said:

When they put his to race it was only car that the wheels malfunctioned and his didnt make it down the track. 

I think this is the key thing to fix for next year.  In our pack each scout puts his own car on the track.  While doing that, he can do a quick check and make sure all is in order.  If a really minor repair is needed such as a stuck wheel - no problem. 

An adult is stationed at the top of the track, watches the scouts put the cars on the track, looks for any problems, and then starts the race when ready.  This has worked very well for us for many years and is very efficient.  It's also WAY more fun for the boys.

I'd fix that and you'll see this kind of problem go away.

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This happened one year to my son at districts. He previously won his den and had pretty fast car. When we went to districts he watched his car not even make it to the finish line. He was supposed to run four races--one in each lane. After the second race we just asked for the car. The tires had been inadvertently pushed in. All rubbed and one front tire wouldn't even turn. Oh well. He was disappointed and I was sad for him, but there was nothing anyone could do. The next year, he glued his axles in place and won districts.

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After seeing an 'Officially Licensed by BSA' series of pre-cut cars (Formula shapes, truck shapes) at Lowes this weekend (the 'racer series')  I withdraw my earlier comments about ANY restrictions about ANYONE following the rules. Why should everyone bother to work from the same block of wood? Why not just let the richest kid buy the best pre-built car on EBay...it will be good training for the boys to find out early that some parents will but their boys every advantage eventually into college. Just make sure BSA can get a cut on the sale. Maybe National should just tax the fastest cars?

I don't know why, yet again, I care about enforcing BSA rules when the biggest eroder is the National organization. 

Why do I even bother.

 

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Posted (edited)

With all due respect, I know of families where the father is non-existent or uninvolved. While I personally do not like the precuts, I can understand why some families will go that route. It was happening so much, that my pack decided to have one meeting dedicated to having folks work on PWD cars. Folks bring any and all their tools and help the Scouts out. That has seen a drastic reduction in the precuts.

Forgot to add, I was one of those Cubs with an uninvolved dad. I had no access to any tools except a pocket knife my uncle gave me.  I whittled that PWD. it took me forever to whittle, looked horrible compared to others, and wouldn't even make it across the finish line because of weights (quarters and nickles) dragging on the track. I would have loved a precut if they had them back in the day. I ams so glad sons' pack have the workshop to help those Cubs like me back in the day.

Edited by Eagle94-A1
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Workshops help a lot. And I'm glad the pack my sons are with has one. Also feeder pack with the troop has one too. But they seem the exception rather than the norm.

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We've always had workshops too. I can't imagine having a successful derby without one.  At first one, but now we hold two.  A couple of Saturday mornings from 9-12.  We'd get a few experienced adults to show new families the process. We'd also have a band saw, sander, and scale setup.  Boys could come with a new kit and leave with a car ready for paint.

In my opinion, they should be part of every pack's program.  An easy way to increase participation.

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That's just what we  do; my assistant has all the woodworking tools, and one of my Webelos who lives up the street from my has a nice big garage and a father who is ready to open it up for us to use. In two weeks it will be open for a few hours on a Saturday so that any boys in the pack can come work on their car, and there will be one more Saturday closer to our derby in April when they can come in if they missed or didn't finish during the first week. 

If you don't have people with the tools and space readily on hand, you could talk to local shops or hardware stores and see if any of them are willing to open up their resources to families in advance of your derby. And then invite them to the races when you have them! Some recognition for them in honor of their help would  be a great way to involve your community and get your program out their. Always look outside the box when you feel stuck. ;-)

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