Pinewood Derby

May 22 2019

The Geo team in Boulder recently held an internal Pinewood Derby fun event. The races were broken up into two brackets, standard and cheaters. The standard division was reserved for cars that adhered to an official specification. The cheaters (and arguably more fun) class was comprised of anything that had wheels and fit on the track. I’m not sure if it is because I haven’t participated in a Derby in two decades or because the event was held by Google, but the entries were some of the more creative I’ve seen. While there were a number of typical pinewood vehicles, some of the notable exceptions include cars with: a panographic camera, a jousting spear, a breadboard, and my personal favorite, quadcopter accessories. Additionally there were entries that were: 3D printed, laser cut, or simply comprised of a quarter carton of eggs.

Fortunately when the race got underway I was pleasantly surprised to see that, like in my Cub Scout days, there is no discernible way to determine which car will win solely from its appearance. The winners of the standard category ended up being a team that spent twenty minutes before weigh in drilling holes in their car in an attempt to meet weight requirements. The cheaters tier was championed by the car with a jousting spear. Arguably the quadcopter car was significantly faster, but it dropped into the losers bracket early on when it’s pilots sent it unintentionally airborne by applying a bit too much thrust.

I ended up volunteering to build a trophy which was awarded to the winners of the standard division. The base, plaque, and car topper are all 3D printed. Sophia helped me paint the topper in the style of the old Google Street View cars. After that was complete I mounted the car on a small stand comprised of a piece of an old wooden dowel and glued it to the base.