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Engineering Secrets of Fast Pinewood Derby Cars

Every year Cub Scouts across the country participate seek to create faster vehicles by learning engineering secrets of fast Pinewood Derby cars. Constructed out of rectangular wedges of wood, Pinewood Derby cars are not only an expression of a child’s creativity but also a celebration of the place where science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) merge together in a fun, hands on activity where kids learn real skills as they race aerodynamic cars down a track fueled by gravity. The Pinewood Derby is a Cub Scout activity that has been held since 1953 and besides fancy tracks with built in timing mechanisms that display the winning time of the car as soon as it crosses the finish line, the rules of racing remain the same. The goal for Cubs is to be the fastest in their heat to advance to the next round and whether you’re new to the Pinewood Derby or an experienced Derby veteran, here’s everything you need to know to have a great race.

  • Engineering secrets of fast Pinewood Derby cars 1 of 8
    Engineering secrets of fast Pinewood Derby cars

    Whether you're a new racer or an experienced veteran, here are some engineering secrets behind fast Pinewood Derby cars to have a great race.  

  • All about the Pinewood Derby 2 of 8
    All about the Pinewood Derby

    From the history, examples of cars, to recommended supplies, The Boy Scouts of America Pinewood Derby site is a great interactive first stop for families new to scouting who don't quite know where to start.

    Image courtesy of Boy Scouts of America

  • Be inspired by these Pinewood Derby cars 3 of 8
    Be inspired by these Derby Cars

    Every year kids are invited to submit photos of their Pinewood Derby cars to Boys' Life that are put up on the site to provide inspiration to other racers as they determine what they want their car to look like. From aerodynamic speedsters, campy throwbacks that adults will love, to ones with pop culture references, this gallery is a must-view for any Pinewood Derby participant!

    Image courtesy of BoysLife.com

     

  • Get to know the rules of the Pinewood Derby 4 of 8
    Get to know the rules

    While speed may be the name of the game, Pinewood Derby cars have to be built to honor weight requirements. The Boy Scouts of America's How to Conduct a Pinewood Derby may be designed for Scout leaders but it's also a helpful read for parents new to Cub Scouts to familiarize you with the Derby goals, weight limits,  how the races are run, and whether or not the parts you're reading about online are legitimate in races.

  • Decide on your Derby car body design 5 of 8
    Decide on your Derby car body design

    The body design of a Pinewood Derby car impacts its performance on the track because some shapes are more aerodynamic than others. Derby Monkey Garage believes "believes a Pinewood Derby car should be designed to move as little air as possible as it speeds down the track" and compares two body shapes to give you the lowdown on which is more aerodynamic.

     

  • Learn the physics behind building a faster car 6 of 8
    Learn the physics behind building a faster car

    Since Pinewood Derby cars are fueled by gravity, knowing a little bit about the physics at work can help you build a faster car. 5 Keys to Pinewood Derby Performance discusses how gravity is a constant force but how elements such as friction and momentum come into play when racing.

  • Get more insider secrets on how to design the ultimate Derby car 7 of 8
    Get more insider secrets on how to design the ultimate Derby car

    Boys' Life says a little extra time and effort with an adult's help can result in the ultimate Pinewood Derby car and shares why you might want to extend the wheelbase, create glue holes, sand your car a bit more, and lubricate the wheels.

  • Participate in a virtual Pinewood Derby race 8 of 8
    Participate in a virtual Pinewood Derby race

    Derby Town Racing is a fun online game where racers collect mushrooms for a boost and weapons to impact the outcome of the race by using the arrow keys on your keyboard.

    Image courtesy of BoysLife.com

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