Pining for a fast car
May 9, 2011
EAGLE COUNTY – It takes some creativity to look at a block of wood and ask, “I wonder how fast I can make it go?”
Cub Scouts all over Eagle County ran their annual Pinewood Derby race, in which they and their cars obey the laws of gravity with almost missionary zeal.
A Pinewood Derby car is wood on wheels, and it’s raced on a gravity track. It’s not exactly like Michelangelo’s David, where the Renaissance artist carved away all the granite that didn’t look like David – but the principle is the same.
Scouts start with a block of wood and cut it into a car design that’s decorated with paint, decals and anything else they can think up. Tiny drivers are popular.
Once the racing starts, the cars compete against one another until they have a grand champion.
Eventually someone wins, but most don’t. Each Cub Scout pack will have dozens of Pinewood Derby racers, and there’s only one championship trophy.
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“That’s part of learning,” said Rich Howard, cub master with Pack 231 in Edwards. “They take what they’ve learned and apply it so they’ll do better next time.”
Because they start with a block of wood and a vision, boys learn some basic woodworking skills, some safety and creativity, Howard said.
“You can be as creative as you want to be. And because you’re working with your family, you have the camaraderie,” Howard said. “The idea is that the boys learn as much as they can. Because you’re dealing with boys 8 to 11 years old, there will be some parental help.”
The Pinewood Derby was started in 1952 by Don Murphy, a Cub Scout leader in California. Murphy wanted to develop a father-son activity that he could do with his son and other Scouts who were too young to compete in the Soap Box Derby, a race of homemade go-carts raced down a hill.
Murphy wanted to promote the family values and Cub Scouting ideals by designing a track and racing miniature pinewood derby cars.
Within a year’s time, the national Boy Scouts of America blessed the event for all Cub Scouts packs nationwide. Pinewood derbies have been raced around the country ever since.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.