FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Pine Wood Derby

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 13•17

p derby 2

I listened to an interview with a mother on a Radiolab podcast (“The Ghosts of Football“) who said her eight-year-old son’s favorite part of playing football was the pizza party and trophy following the season.

The focus of the story was that 13 members of the family played in the NFL, and despite her son’s ability to make opponents “eat dirt,” he decided he no longer wanted play football.

“That kind of stuff is messing up the history in my life,” the boy said after he hit one boy so hard that he cried.

Listening to the podcast, I thought of D and the Pine Wood Derby, and if I were to ask him his favorite part, he would likely say it was eating French Fries afterwards at the Habit Grill.

(In fact, I asked him after writing this post, and that’s exactly what he said.)

bear den

I know my son. Seriously, though, we pulled it off: a mechanically challenged dad and his son designed a functional car, and we did most of it the night before and morning of the race.

We painted his car and used a fan to dry it in the morning, and the paint was still wet when we arrived at the check-in table, where his car failed to meet the weight requirement.

This was D’s first Pine Wood Derby (D’s birthday party was the same day the Pine Wood Derby last year), and I must have missed the announcement in pack meetings that cars must weigh six ounces to meet race regulations.

p derby 1

Fortunately, there was a table with glue guns next to the weigh-in station, and other scouts were glueing coins to the top and bottom of their cars. We had ten minutes to pass inspection.

So we ran to the car for coins, and I solicited a few extra nickels and dimes from moms, so D’s car could pass the weight requirements–and we finished with thirty-eight seconds to spare.

D welded thirteen coins to his car the Saturn V–maybe I glued a few myself–and while his car didn’t look as visually appealing, I thought the coins might at least make his car go faster.

A confession: D drew his car design on paper, and I traced it onto the wood block, although I made a few slight alterations to his design, in the hope it would be a more aerodynamic car.

But next year, I plan to take a more hands-off approach, discuss the design factors with him and let him do it all, and let the chips–literally and figuratively–fall wherever they may.

This year, his car was more of a team effort, and I’m sure that’s probably pretty normal. I was glad D took pride in his car, running up to me to tell me his car took first place in one heat.

pine derby 4

The race itself was anti-climatic to watch. D’s car finished second in the seven other heats. Most were against the same cars–but I was relieved we avoided any type of catastrophe.

The wheels of his car didn’t come off  like I feared might happen (which a happened to a scout last year).Or his car didn’t finish last eight times  in a row (which happened to a few kids).

D’s car clocked at a high of 181 mph and the actual difference between first, second, third and fourth was fractions of a second, so the worst car was not that bad and the fastest not so great.

I’m not sure what D took away from the whole experience, but I felt glad we had accomplished a task together, and D can use what we learned to him build a car more on his own next year.

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