Video: Hacks and mods for Pinewood Derby builders

Pinewood Derby videoScouts take a solemn oath to be morally straight… except when they’re cheating up their Pinewood Derby cars like Smokey Yunick. This little video shows how to trick out your kid’s racer for maximum speed. 



If you or your children have been through the Cub Scouts, Pinewood Derby requires no explanation. In this character-building activity, Scouts (or their dads, more likely) build palm-sized, five-ounce race cars from a prepared kit that includes a block of pine and four regulation plastic wheels. Then the cars face off on a specially built, inclined racing track for some friendly, gravity-powered competition.

You see where this is going: The friendly competition can get cutthroat in a hurry. Over the decades, an entire body of Pinewood Derby go-fast technical lore has developed. And just as with 1:1 scale motorsports,  you can find sound, accurate info, and you can find plenty of baloney, too.

Video science author Mark Rober produced this clever little video that uses simple, straightforward physics and a total energy model to identify the most effective speed techniques in Pinewood Derby. It’s technically fascinating and a lot of fun, too. Check it out.



3 thoughts on “Video: Hacks and mods for Pinewood Derby builders

  1. Thanks, the video was enlightening. For reasons I no longer remember, we put the weight toward the front of the car. Obviously that was completely wrong.

  2. I washed out of scouting early for two reasons: I couldn’t swim and, even at young age, I had absolutely no interest in racing cars with no engines.

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