Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pinewood Derby - Where Grown Men Can Beat Little Kids!

A few days back, my son’s scout pack had their annual Pinewood Derby. As he’s at a new school now, it was a new group to what we had in the last few years.

In advance (not too much), my son sketched out what shape car he wanted – pretty simple. He then cut it out, under my watchful eye, sanded it down, and used my Dremmel to hollow it out, and then massed it up. The rest was easy, he painted it and put the wheels on.

In the past, I was annoyed at the one or two families who cars were obviously made by an adult with virtually no help from the scout – the ones that weighed in at exactly 5.00 ounces, wheels professionally polished and a paint job that rivaled anything you’d see at Autorama. Invariably, these cars won or got placed

This year was different – out of the about 40 cars, I’d estimate that there were a good 15 that were professionally done. Now, I don’t mind a parent helping – certainly if they feel their kid can’t handle power took, but to me, it’s meant to be at least a joint effort.

The whole pinewood derby is, in my opinion, a great learning opportunity for a boy – he gets to learn a bit about woodworking, painting, and physics. And, of course, competition.

A few of the kids did not even see their car until it was race day. What do they get out of it? A chance to show that their dads are better at making wooden cars than their friends. Not their friend’s dads, just their friends. To the grown men whose cars won, I felt like saying “well done. You outdid a bunch of 8-10 year olds. You are THE MAN.”

The youngest kids had their own competition, and then everyone else just duked it out. And guess what? The supercars won. To make it even more boring, 3 of the top 4 were from one family. The cars were pristine, and from what I was told, it was a competition between a dad, an uncle and a granddad. Well done guys! Want to arm wrestle the kids too? You might win that also!

The answer – make the cars in the school, in a fixed time. Sure, they will not be as perfect or professional, but at least the boys will be able to take some pride in their work. They will be able to recognize their cars in the race, and when one wins, it’s because of the boy’s work, not an adult who gifts the boys.

Ah… there are bigger things to get stressed about, but sometimes it’s the little things that bother me bigtime.