Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
FireStone

Pre-season Pinewood Derby drama

Recommended Posts

It's kind of hard to believe, but even though it's only October I'm already getting questions/comments about the Pinewood Derby in my Den. I'm mostly trying to put off most of the Den discussion until we're closer to the event in January, but I would be interested in some opinions so I can thoughtfully address some parent concerns when the time comes. 

So what I've had brought to my attention so far are these comments:

  • Dads build the cars, it's not fair. 
  • Mr. Smith clearly built his son's winning car, you should not allow that. 
  • Can we do smaller trophies so everyone gets one?
  • I let my son build his car last year and he came in last, so this year I'm not letting that happen.
  • Let's have all the kids build the cars at a Den meeting and hand them in, so we know scouts made all the cars.
  • Scouts should make their cars 100% themselves, parents should only watch.

Ok, so first and foremost I have serious concerns about the general opinion of the derby among my den parents. If someone is responding their scout's loss last year by pledging to build the car themselves this year, I'm kind of sad for the state of things in my den. 

Now on to trying to build an improved opinion and approach to the derby...

Let's get one of these items out of the way quickly. Participation trophies. Not happening. That's a Pack policy, and one I agree with.

The comments about dads building the cars, and the accusation that Mr. Smith made his son's car. First, I don't know that he did. I know his son is pretty handy, involved in STEM groups/activities outside of scouting, so it's not unreasonable for me to think that he had a lot of involvement in building his car. I don't expect any scout to build a car 100% from start to finish. It's supposed to be a collaborative project with parents. The paint job was (in my opinion) clearly done by the scout. The shape of the car was pretty basic, so who can say if a kid or parent made it. Just because it won I'm not going to assume that it was overly parent-made. 

What do you say to that parent making that accusation? 

The suggestion to build the cars at a Den meeting isn't unreasonable, coming from the same concern that dads build the cars and wanting to have more scout hands-on involvement. Although I struggle with that one because I worry that making this a group activity takes away the intent of the derby to begin with, a fun project for a scout and parent to do together. 

I guess overall I'm struggling with the balance between scout-built and parent-built, and how to express that to the den parents. And it seems really hard to put that into any sort of rules or regulations. Especially when I'm being asked in some cases to go outside of Pack rules and institute our own specific den rules. Or to lobby the Pack to change rules. 

Any suggestions for how to handle these questions/comments I'm getting? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you tried holding a separate race for parents? That takes a lot of the "dad won't even let me touch the car" pressure off.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really? It's that hard to believe?

Let me think of some possible point-by-points that may not make your parents happy, but should help you set a desirable tone.

Dads build the cars, it's not fair. 

  • Correction: some dads build the cars. I hear from strangers on the internet that some moms do too.
  • Well, is it fair that Johnny loses a finger because his hand-eye is not quite there yet?
  • Thank God they do! Otherwise some of these boys would win too easily.

Mr. Smith clearly built his son's winning car, you should not allow that. 

  • Facts not in evidence.
  • Talk to Mr. Smith, and ask if he can help you and your son build a car like that.

I let my son build his car last year and he came in last, so this year I'm not letting that happen.

  • By all means let your son team up with you or your spouse, if she is the better fine woodworker (yes, in my household that would be Mrs. Q).
  • Also, while you're at it, can you team up with any boys whose dad's are out of the picture?
  • Better yet (show scoutstuff site), here's where you can order blocks for your den, and maybe they can build prototypes before we roll out the pack kits!
  • Awesome! Here's what you do: buy your son five kits. Have him build a car a month until derby day!

Let's have all the kids build the cars at a Den meeting and hand them in, so we know scouts made all the cars.

  • And steal a good Saturday away from a father and is son?
  • And what about the boys who want to spend more than an hour sanding out their car?
  • We have an event for that. It's called the rain-gutter regatta.

Scouts should make their cars 100% themselves, parents should only watch.

  • Some old fart on the internet told me that they don't realize it, but parents have precious little time left to spend with their kids before they conspire to gather their siblings spouses and girlfriends for a weekend backpack in a wilderness recreation area without you. (Not that he's jealous or anything ... :p)

Or you could send them to Bryan

 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Saltface said:

Have you tried holding a separate race for parents? That takes a lot of the "dad won't even let me touch the car" pressure off.

For a while Son #1's pack did do a dad-only class of cars. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But, it does add a lot of time to a long day. So they eventually dropped it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Three things that come to mind.  

1) Hold a pack workday or two.  At the workday have help for designing cars and have sufficient tools on hand for cutting out cars and doing some basic sanding.  That will help level out access to tools.

2) Have a conversation about what you expect parents to do and what you expect Scouts to do.  In the age of bandsaws we saw most parents use one to cut out the car.  Then, once cut out, the Scout did the sanding and finishing.  The band saw is the right tool for the job - but there is no way you're going to have a Cub Scout operate it.

3) Knowledge imparted from parent to Scout here makes a huge difference.  For example, my son's car always had a good - but not great paint job.  If was pretty good because we sanded the car, primed the car, sanded the primer, added a second coat of primer where needed, sanded again, added a layer of paint, sanded that, etc...  When a parent asked me about it once and I started talking about the process they were shocked.  It wasn't anything fancy - we just took our time.  One of the other parents owns a business with a paint shop.  Their finish was like glass.  Did that parents do not it - probably not.  Dad can just instruct better and has way better equipment than we did.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Saltface said:

Have you tried holding a separate race for parents? That takes a lot of the "dad won't even let me touch the car" pressure off.

We did this.  It was only a few parents so it didn't take long at the end but it was fun because the dads didn't have to adhere to all of the usual rules.  one dad used rubber tires and that resulted in the car going off track every time to much laughter from the scouts.

1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

Three things that come to mind.  

1) Hold a pack workday or two.  At the workday have help for designing cars and have sufficient tools on hand for cutting out cars and doing some basic sanding.  That will help level out access to tools.

 

we also did work days but not at regular scout time.  a separate day or two was set aside on the weekend for a few hours in the church basement with various tools so that a scout could work on cars if their family did not have the necessary tools.  My son's first pack had a lot of single moms with no tools or knowledge about such things.

I admit to rolling my eyes on occasion.  One car really stands out in my memory.  There's no way the tiger cub did anything except maybe some of the sanding.  It looked like a real toy car you could buy at the store.  But that's between the scout and his father.  My kid did almost everything on his cars including using the saw except for a few cuts.  That's how we roll in my house.  If someone is going to do all the work for their scout, there's really nothing you can do to prevent it.  Are you going to disqualify a scout's car? 

I enjoy this scout cartoon.

 

junk.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In 10-15 years the scouts won’t necessarily remember what place they took but they will remember the memories of working on the PWD car with their parent(s).  If some dad takes that away from their son it is a loss for them.  I remember working with my father on my PWD over 30 years ago and am building memories with my son these last few years.  I feel bad for the adults (and youth) where the parent takes over 100%.... I’m not jealous of them at all.

 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, qwazse said:

Really? It's that hard to believe?

Let me think of some possible point-by-points that may not make your parents happy, but should help you set a desirable tone.

...

Or you could send them to Bryan

 

Excellent points, I'm flush with notes on good responses now. And I like the idea of inviting the complainers to run the derby next year, until one of them takes me up on it and then changes all the rules. :)

That Bryan article is excellent. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have done basic build activity for reggattas, space, and pinewood derby's during den meetings to help avoid these kind of issues.

For the derby cars we will have the cubs design or draw their desired shape on their pine blocks at a den meeting. 1 or two of the dad's will take the stock and cut out the shapes for everyone and then the cubs get their cutouts back the next den meeting. This puts everyone on the same footing as far as access to power tools or parents with woodworking experience. It also makes "competitive" parents happy to have the job of cutting all the cars out. And it keeps them from taking over for their cubs.

The committee sets specific rules about axles each race and it goes out in an email from scoutbook. Either all the cars can have straight axles, or sometimes they allow bent axles (rail riders). Paint is done at a den meeting so we know all the cubs have access to painting supplies. Wheels and axles are done at home. None of the car activities take up much time in the den meetings themselves except for the painting. What sanding or fine shaping they do at home with or by dad usually has minimal effect on the outcomes.

We have a rule that all weights have to be attached 1 inch in front of the back wheels if it's needed to "make weight." Basicly we incorporate or exclude "tricks" when they are known to help win races so everyone has a fair shake. We have it decided and ready when the cubs get their kits, so well ahead of time.

Now no system is perfect, and if a parent really wants to build the car on thier own at home we don't say no. But  honestly most super competitive parents that do everything for their kids tend to be target focused and usually miss THE race, and only get to run their cars socially at a rally or recruiting nights. So it all works out.

We have had "parent" races. We've had ridiculous fast cars and amazing show cars from those events but they tend to be at blue and gold dinners or for county fair exhibitions. Not at the same time as the cubs.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×