Pinewood Derby How-to Guide:
Pinewood Derby is an annual event typically held each January. The event requires cub scouts to build a derby car utilizing the parts contained in the official BSA Pinewood Derby kit. Many years we give the kits to the boys at the December pack meeting a gift. The vehicles are then raced down an angled track using gravity as the sole energy source. Boys only race against other boys in their rank. There is a separate race category for siblings and for adults.
Typically the fastest 3 cars from each rank will receive awards and will also be invited to compete against boys from other packs at the district pinewood derby. In addition to racing, awards are also typically given for rank favorite, best paint job, best scout theme, most patriotic, etc.
Race rules may vary some from year to year, but should be set and distributed to the pack early in the planning process. It is typically a good idea to use the same rules that will be used at the district event.
Our pack typically hosts a derby workshop 3-4 weeks prior to the races where power tools are available for use. In the future, the pack hopes to purchase these tools to always have on hand, but in the past we have always gotten by with parents bringing tools for everyone to use. Tools we typically need are band saws, scroll saws, benchtop belt/disk/drum sanders, drill presses, and rotary tools.
The night before the event, the track should be set up and tested to ensure everything is working properly (timers, starters, cameras, etc. During this time, a vehicle inspection and registration should take place in order to make the event run smoother. Each car should be inspected to ensure it meets the requirements set forth in the rules. Once inspection has been passed, the boy’s registration information should go into the race computer and his car will be given a unique race number. Cars are then “impounded” until the end of the races to inure that they are not modified following inspection.
On race day, only leaders (or boy scout volunteers) should handle the cars. Each car should race 1 time in each lane. When working properly, scoring is best done via the track’s electronic lane timers; however, they do not always function properly. In these cases, we have used an average of the vehicles placement in each race with the lowest score declared the winner. For example, if a car races in all 6 lanes and finishes as follows in each heat: 1st, 1st, 2rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd. Added up, this equals 9 divided by 6 heats = 1.5. Another car races and finishes 1,1,3,1,1,1. This averages to 1.3333. Car 2 would therefore be declared the winner.
There are a ton of videos, books, and other resources online as to how to build fast and unique pinewood derby cars. Boys and parents are encouraged to use these resources as long as they stay within the race rules.
Immediately following the Annual planning meeting in April:
- Cubmaster or Committee Chair should book space in the scout building and/or Asbury hall for the race day, the night before race day (for setup, registration, and inspection), and for the workshop day
- Pinewood Derby Chairperson should be finalized (if one hasn’t already been designated). This person should begin finalizing rules for the event and begin getting volunteers lined up to help run the races and related events. Remember that the Troop needs volunteer service hours and the boys are typically eager to help with such tasks.
- Dates and locations should be confirmed with the church
- The pack committee should decide if the derby kits will be given as gits at the December meeting. If so, an inventory of cars on hand should be taken and funds should be appropriated to purchase kits
- Derby chairperson should start trying to find people who can help and volunteer tools at the workshop
- Early in the month, race rules should be distributed to the pack. Cars may be given out at the meeting
- Event chair should have an article for the pack news letter announcing dates and times for races. Links to the rules, information on awards, district pinewood derby, etc.
- Order trophies early in the month. There are a number of vendors out there, but we typically use Award America on Louetta.
- Host workshop weekend
- Have registration/ inspection night
- Have races
Blue and Gold or March pack meeting:
- Have a follow-up article in newsletter with names of all prize winners
- Help with planning dates for next year’s event
- Help with District Pinewood Derby