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In making a car for the Pinewood Derby race, scouts learn about speed, aerodynamics, physics, design, and function. Parents who do too much of the work in making the car are frowned upon, as the hands-on activity is intended to teach scouts how to build their own derby car by themselves, with a little help from an adult. Some of the best-made derby cars are legendary, and definitely deserving of one of those Pinewood Derby medals.

The creativity behind some of the best-designed cars is stunning, reminding us just how imaginative kids can be. Since the beginning of the Pinewood Derby, the style and design of each car is a big part of the fun. Many Pinewood Derby events now have a separate design competition, where the scouts with the most clever, unique and awesome-looking car can also win a medal. When it comes to painting and building a Pinewood Derby boxcar, the sky is truly the limit!


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Taking part in the Pinewood Derby is a great way for scouts to gain confidence. In making a race car themselves, kids may discover that they love building things or have a talent for painting and art. Regardless of whether or not a scout wins a Pinewood Derby medal, participating in the competition creates long-lasting memories for kids, parents, and families alike. For Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts who are now adults, racing their car in the Pinewood Derby is often one of the fondest memories of their childhood. For parents and mentors helping young scouts build their first Pinewood Derby car, the competition is a chance to be a kid again.

Trophy Outlet has all the medals and trophies Boy Scout troops need to make their own Pinewood Derby a memorable and exciting event. Shop Trophy Outlet for customized medals, trophies and more! All prices are in USD.


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Copyright Trophy Outlet. All Rights Reserved. Please wait Follow Us on Social Media Connect with us. Shopping Cart. Call Us: Compare 0 Item Call Us: Similar Cub Scouting events include the raingutter regatta a race for miniature boats and the space derby a race for rubber band-driven propeller shuttles. Murphy's son was too young to participate in the popular Soap Box Derby races, so he came up with the idea of racing miniature wood cars.

Girls make history by entering Pinewood Derby Race

The cars had the same gravity-powered concept as the full-size Soap Box Derby cars, but were much smaller and easier to build. The pinewood derby had a sensational first year. Murphy and the Management Club of North American Aviation sent out thousands of brochures to anyone who requested more information. The idea spread rapidly, and competitions were held across the country, mainly with recreation departments and nonprofit organizations including the Los Angeles County Department of Recreation.

Of all that early enthusiasm, however, only the Boy Scouts of America made it part of an official program.

The History of the Pinewood Derby - Great Lakes Trophies

Bud Bennett, wrote Murphy: "We believe you have an excellent idea, and we are most anxious to make your material available to the Cub Scouts of America. In its October issue, Boys' Life publicized the event and offered plans for the track and a car, which featured "four wheels, four nails, and three blocks of wood. Murphy continued to run the derby program through the Management Club until his retirement from North American Aviation in He died in A shoulder patch for the Western Los Angeles County Council that depicted a pinewood derby car and a message of honor to Murphy was released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the event.

In , the design of the block was changed from a cutout block, consistent with a s style front-engined Indy car, to a rectangular block. The tires were also changed from narrow, hard plastic, to wider "slicks. When using a kit sold through Boy Scouts of America BSA , the Scout begins with a block of wood, four plastic wheels, and four nails for axles. Blocks can be whittled with a hand knife, bandsaw , or a carving tool.

Other than the previous basic design rules, the Cub Scout is able to carve and decorate the car as he chooses. Cars vary from unfinished blocks to whimsical objects, to accurate replicas of actual cars. Weights can be added to the final design to bring the car to the maximum allowable weight. A high-density metal weight, such as tungsten carbide which isn't toxic like lead, reduces the volume of wood, which reduces air friction and increases speed. Axle friction can be reduced by polishing the nails and applying graphite as a lubricant. The track usually has two to eight lanes and slopes down to the ground, since the cars are powered by gravity.

How I Made A Simple Pinewood Derby Car

Tracks may be owned by the pack or rented. The race is run in heats, giving every car the chance to run on each lane. First, second, and third-place winners usually receive ribbons, medals, or trophies.

Some packs also award on the basis of car design or styling. The first place race winners get to advance to the district level, then each of the district-wide race winners get to race each other from across the entire council. The force accelerating a pinewood derby car is gravity ; the opposing forces are friction and air drag. Therefore, car modifications are aimed at maximizing the potential energy in the car design and minimizing the air drag and the friction that occurs when the wheel spins on the axle, contacts the axle head or car body, or contacts the track guide rail.

The wheel tread can be sanded or turned on a lathe and the inner surface of the hub can be tapered to minimize the contact area between the hub and body. Polishing the wheel, especially the inner hub, with a plastic polish can also reduce friction. Often one front wheel is raised slightly so that it does not contact the track and add to the rolling resistance.

A Former Model Builder Builds a Model Event

Axles are filed or turned on a lathe to remove the burr and crimp marks and polished smooth. More extensive modifications involve tapering the axle head and cutting a notch to minimize the wheel-to-axle contact area. Packs can establish additional rules for what, if any, modifications are allowed. In some areas, no changes can be made to the axles or wheels.

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A second consideration is the rotational energy stored in the wheels. The pinewood derby car converts gravitational potential energy into translational kinetic energy speed plus rotational energy. Heavier wheels have a greater moment of inertia and their spinning takes away energy that would otherwise contribute to the speed of the car. A standard wheel has a mass of 2. A raised wheel can reduce the rotational energy up to one-quarter, but this advantage is less with a bumpy track.

Another consideration is the track itself. A track that is mostly sloping, with little flat at the end, can allow cars with minimal mass in their wheels to shine. However, a track with a steep slope and then a long flat section can penalize such cars due to the quick loss of energy they experience once they have reached the bottom, when all potential energy has been transferred to kinetic and rotational energy. Such cars will take a lead on the downslope, but may be passed by cars with more energy "stored" away as rotational energy on the flat.

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Derby Talk

A proper lubricant, typically graphite powder, is essential. Wheel alignment is important both to minimize wheel contact with the axle head and body as well as to limit the contact between the wheels and guide rail as the car travels down the track. There are 32 friction causing surfaces on a pinewood derby car. These include the surfaces of all four wheels which touch either the axle, the body or the track and the surfaces of all four axles which touch the wheel.

Neglecting to polish and lubricate any of these 32 surfaces will result in degraded performance. The center of mass of a typical car is low and slightly ahead of the rear axle, which helps the car track straight as well as providing a slight advantage due to the additional gravitational potential energy. The pinewood derby was selected as part of "America's Best" in as "a celebrated rite of spring" by Reader's Digest. As the popularity of the pinewood derby grew, other organizations adopted the concept. Pinewood derby is a registered trademark of the BSA, [9] so most use different names.

Each derby has slightly different rules for making and racing their cars. Media related to Pinewood derby at Wikimedia Commons.