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Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Good Day...

I mentioned that yesterday was the Pinewood Derby for our Cub Scout pack. The Pinewood Derby was described to me, when my son started and I joined the Pack leadership, as "the Superbowl of Cub Scouts". That's a pretty accurate description of the level of competition - mostly from the dads - this is where hard work and skill pay off, and some get blinded by the shiny trophy in their quest for first place. We've never, in my four years, had someone overtly cheat - but there have been many instances where it was obvious that the scout had little do with the creation of his car.

There's not a lot we can do there. Obviously, where there are power tools involved it's prudent to have some adult involvement even in the older ranks - there's no rule saying that the scout must do the car on his own. The process by which a scout makes a Pinewood Derby car should be a learning one, where every year they put in more and more work themselves, so that by their final year or two they're doing all of the work except perhaps cutting out the shape. Some scouts do this - and it's evident - and others hand the box to their parent(s) for completion. Even if this is the case, if the scout and their adult partner work together, this is fine.

TheBoy was discouraged after last year. He put in the lion's share of work on his car, choosing the shape, tracing it onto the block, sanding it after cutting, painting, graphiting, etc. And he watched another boy win first place - and then proceeded to thank his machinist grandfather for making the car for him. That's the downside - not everyone agrees with the spirit of the rules, and some take advantage of the fact that there are no hard and fast rules about getting assistance from family members. It gets even worse going to the Regional races - the top two scouts in each pack (for each rank) meet for one series of races with the top two scouts from all the other packs in the particular district.

And TheBoy took second place yesterday, so we're going to Regionals next month...

He went his Tiger cub year - I don't know how it happened, but somehow the car that he and I made took first place in our pack's Pinewood derby. He even did very well at regionals - they give trophies to the top four finishers, and he came in fifth out of 44 scouts (I know this because the guys running the regional race borrowed our track and racing software, and my Committee Chair ran the computer for the event). It means I'll be on the hook to help out the regional race - but this time I'll have a reason for being there. TheBoy is excited - he's taken first and third place in years passed, so this completes the circuit for him - and understands that he's up against some stiff competition at regionals.

But we're going to do our best, and have fun - and that's what it's all about.

That is all.

8 comments:

yankeefried said...

Congratulations!

I remember we also had a rocket derby when I was in scouts (rubber band powered running on a zip line). Do they still do that?

Veeshir said...

I occasionally judge science fairs, I always take points away from kids whose projects show the heavy hand of a parent.
I liked the kids who figured out why the bigger nuts are always on top of the mixed nut can and stuff like that.

One kid was furious when he didn't win, his father worked at NASA and, apparently, on "his" project.

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to do that, but I think it's the best way to do it.

Old NFO said...

Congrats to the Boy! It IS about having fun, and I think when the parents/grandparents step in, the boys lose... IMHO...

Anonymous said...

The magazine rack at Lowes had a very interesting manual/magazine on building winning Pinewood Derby cars. Went into all the legal way to make a given car faster down to discussing where to put the weights(hint-at the ear of the cars).

Maura said...

Thanks for sharing the good news about TheBoy! I wish there had been Derby opportunities for me when I was a Scout - but, it has never been a Girl Scout thing. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Bob said...

Grats! Well done!

Boyd K said...

pinewood rocks! I still have my 2nd car in ugly (U G L Y) metallic purple sprayed over roughly whittled "curves". Dad was a boeing tool and die guy, one of the other kids in the troop had his engineer dad "borrow" time in a well known local aerospace companies wind tunnel. Nice smooth curves on that one... -great- paint.
Dad showed me how to smooth the nails without taking much material off and then rub graphite into the nails (and rub and rub and...) and: Ugly car won. My ugly cars pretty much set a winning streak. I guess everyone does graphite now. Congratulations to your son (it's even better as a Dad, isn't it?).

Phil L. said...

yankeefried -

Yes, Cub Scouts still do the rocket derby. I've helped run a derby at a Cub day camp - and the whole rubber-band thing makes the rockets surprisingly finicky. As a result, how well the rocket does has less to do with the effort the Scout put into it, and more with the details of exactly how the bands are wound, etc. This also means it's quite time-consuming to run an event for a large number of Cubs.

For these reasons, the rocket derby event isn't quite as popular as pinewood derbies.