Ready, set, race: Cub Scouts compete in pack derbies

Published on Sunday, 23 February 2014 00:16 - Written by Victor Texcucano vtexcucano@tylerpaper.com

Local Cub Scouts received lessons in engineering, physics, artistry and the feelings of sweet victory and crushing defeat on Saturday morning, as the Okee Tuklo district held its annual Pinewood Derby at Pollard United Methodist Church.

Winners of pack derbies qualified to the derby of the Okee Tuklo district, which includes Smith and Wood counties.

Cub scouts showcased their engineering skills and craftsmanship as they competed in either speed or style categories.

Speed racers usually are smooth, sleek cars built purely for velocity, while style racers tend to take a more imaginative approach. Generally, style racers have artistic flair and extravagant, colorful themes.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith, Tyler Fire Chief Tim Johnson and Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle were present to judge the style cars.

At time of registration, scouts are given a rectangular slab of pinewood, which they must turn into a contending car, which will race down the sloped aluminum track.

Okee Tuklo senior district executive Carl Hanke said scouts work on the cars with the help of their families, which is part of the event’s fun.

“The point of the Pinewood Derby is for Cub Scouts and their parents to basically build a project together,” he said. “That youth and his parents cut it, sand it, paint it and make it look how they want it to look, so it’s all about the family working together on this project, which is part of the aim of our Cub Scout program.”

District council board member, Roddey Hogan said a parent or two helping with the project is important.

“You can tell which cars are cut by the kids because the kids have no fingers” he said with a smile.

Hogan said families come together to engineer the cars with weights, smooth acrylic paints and other elements to make sure the cars meet the strict specifications.

For example, cars can weigh only up to five ounces. If the car is finished and is underweight, families add lead weights or coins somewhere on the car to increase gravity’s pull.

Because no liquid lubricants are allowed on the wheels, families use graphite powder to reduce friction and increase velocity across the smooth aluminum track.

The Pinewood Derby serves as many kids’ first taste of many important subjects, said Daniel Anderson, assistant scout executive.

“What you have is a couple of different elements of Cub Scouting coming together,” he said. “It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to engineering. They’re trying to figure out, ‘How do I make it aerodynamic?’ so the car goes down as fast it possibly can down the plane.”

Anderson also said the derby is a perfect mix of things to teach young boys important values in life.

“They’re spending time with their families building a car. They come together and at the end, they’re going to feel good about how it turned out,” he said. “So you have, between the family element, the educational component, and a little bit of healthy competition, you’ve got three big things that Cub Scouts are really about.”

“We’re trying to teach these kids about life,” said Bill Osburn, race chairman. “We’re trying to teach them how to be prepared … and to do your best.”