Pinewood Derby rolls on

Scouts compete, demonstrate creativity at Pinewood Derby

A box full of Pinewood Derby cars crafted by local Cub Scouts at a recent Pinewood Derby event at the Berthoud United Methodist Church on Jan. 21 illustrates the creativity involved in an event that will is celebrating its 64th year.
Aaron Reynolds / The Surveyor

By Aaron Reynolds
The Surveyor

On Saturday, Jan. 21, nearly 50 Scouts, ranging in age from 6 to 11 years of age, congregated in the basement of the Berthoud First United Methodist Church for the annual Pinewood Derby challenge.

The Pinewood Derby is one of the most decorated events for Cub Scouts, with a tradition that remains almost unchanged since its conception in May of 1953, and is what Scout leader, Craig Wingard, confirmed as the “biggest event of the year.” Next year will mark the 65th anniversary of the first derby. The concept of the race remains lucid in an era where technology is so ubiquitous with modern day life.

Each participant of the competition is presented with a simple task: who can make the fastest car out of a block of pinewood with a kit that also includes four plastic wheels, axles and nails. While there are length, width and weight restrictions, the rest of the design and eventual construction of the car is left up to the imagination of the Scout.

“They’re making something that’s a rare thing these days,” Wingard said. “They’re making it with their hands. They don’t need be a master woodworker. We’re looking for a kid to invest some time in something. To get a kid to spend an hour on something that is not a video game these days is a real challenge.”

Fathers, especially those of the younger Tigers (first grade) and Wolves (second grade), are what Wingard expected to be “heavily involved” in creating the car. However, once the child reaches Webelo I or II (fourth and fifth grade) the Scout is doing everything except maybe using a bandsaw. Regardless of the amount of input the parent has on the construction, the overall concept is to forge a special connection between father and son.

“(My Dad and I) made a wedge. On the bottom we chiseled out some wood and put in weights,” Webelos II Scout Seth Anderson described his car. “Then we chiseled out spots so it pulls down the car more and it goes down the track faster. It’s blue, and we got some old badges, and it says ‘Pinewood Derby’ on it.”

Meanwhile, fellow Webelos II member Jack Wingard created a “flat slab with weights” that was “painted silver and has a wolf face on it.” Jeremiah Havran, member of the Wolves, opted to decorate the car with his favorite colors of green, black and white. While all scouts interviewed confirmed various numbers of days and times with a parent necessary to build the car, all agreed making it was far different compared to something they might carry out on an average day, such as play video games or be on a computer.

“It was sort of more active. You get some activity out of it,” Anderson observed while Havran added: “I never really get to (build something) that often. It’s something I get to do with my dad.”

The basement was packed Saturday as Scouts lined the front couple of rows to watch the pinewood cars speed down the four-lane metal track – all fueled by gravity – while parents watched from a distance and many volunteered to help organize the event. Each car had an opportunity to run in every lane of the track in various heats before fastest times were collected and the top 10 (two from each division) advanced to the finals.

“We have seen a lot of great cars today,” Wingard told the audience before he announced the names of the finalists. “Not all of the cars have been as fast as you want, right? But you are trying. If your name is not called you cheer on the guy’s name that is called, because next year – it’s probably going to be you.”

True, for Webelos like Jack Wingard and Seth Anderson it will be their final Pinewood Derby as they will progress to the level of Boy Scout next year, while Havran and many other young scouts will have at least one more opportunity down the road.

In the end trophies and ribbons were handed out to the following finalists:

First place: Beau Swanson
Second place: Gryphon Miller
Other finalists: Alexander Teys, Elliott Beeken, and Troy Wingard

Interested in Boy Scouts of America program? Contact Craig Wingard at (361) 522-7676 or visit http://www.scouting.org/ for more information.