Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How We Run Our Pinewood Derby

Sunshine's car is the pink blur in the far left lane

There's constant turnover in the pack leadership in most LDS wards, so you never know who will be experienced and who will be a complete novice. Apparently my time as a complete novice is over, since I was the pack committee chair with the most experience this year when we were organizing our 4 pack Pinewood Derby.

There's a huge learning curve that comes with Scouts and I wasn't given much information when I started, so I've had to learn on the job, so to speak. In an effort to make things easier for the next committee chair, and to hopefully keep things running smoothly, I've been writing things down. Though honestly, some of it is for me too. Like last summer I forgot to write down the t-shirt sizes for our adult volunteers for summer camp, so I made a note to remind myself to make a list before submitting the volunteer list this summer. Other notes have involved scheduling certain activities in certain months, recording info, tracking other activities, and so on.

And there's notes on the Pinewood Derby. Keeping track of how things are done and where resources are keeps us from reinventing the wheel every year. So here's how we've been doing our Pinewood Derby the last few years.

We have a newer 4-lane track but no timing mechanism. If we can get all the packs to chip in, we might get the mechanism for next year. In the meantime, we make do without.

We have 3-4 watchers at the finish to visually call the placing, and one person uses an iPad positioned over the finish line to record finishes for playback, when the finish is too close to call.

We use this program to track who races when and who is winning. If you go to the link, you can download an Excel spreadsheet for 2, 3, 4, or 6 lane tracks. The spreadsheets include a page with instructions for use, and it's fairly easy to work with.

The only two things that are sticky for us: the car numbers and recording the places for each heat.

When the boys weigh their cars, they're assigned a number in their age group (the first boy who's a Wolf would be labeled Wo1) which is written on a small sticker and stuck on the car. Once everyone's signed in, I enter the names in the spreadsheet, grouping them by age groups. Doing so assigns new numbers, which are used when keeping track of which car races when. Having two numbers for each car causes unnecessary confusion, especially since the original number is on the car and the computer number is on a separate list.

the cars are grouped by age group, with stickers identifying each one
only adult leaders move the cars back and forth, which eliminates a lot of confusion and problems

Next year we'll probably have the boys register the night before so we have time to enter the info in the computer, assign numbers, and make sure the cars are properly labeled.

Recording the places isn't too much of a hassle, but it does take some concentration to make sure the places are entered accurately after the results of each heat is relayed from the finish to the start.

Of course, if we get the timing mechanism, that would take care of at least on of these issues. The timing mechanism automatically transfers the places to the computer. I'm guessing this means it comes with the software, so depending on how it's set up, it may also eliminate the issue of conflicting numbers on each car.

How do you run your Pinewood Derby? What works? What doesn't?

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