Gravity is a Cub Scout’s friend

KINGSTON — The small pinewood cars in Cub Scout Pack 555’s Pinewood Derby Saturday consisted of very little —  a block of pinewood, four wheels, four nails, a splash of paint and some weight.

But these hand-size vehicles brought quite a crowd to the gym at David Wolfle Elementary, where 35 cars competed on two tracks and scouts and parents crowded the spectator area to cheer them on.

The cars had to weigh in at 5 ounces or lighter, using the pinewood car kit provided to the scouts. Weights could be added to the car but had to stay in one place. When the cars arrived at the gym Saturday morning, they were weighed to ensure they met the 5-ounces-or-less rule. Each owner then determined whether they wanted to add or remove weight from their car and then turned their car in for the race. The vehicles were then set aside until the races started and were off limits to the scouts.

Each den within the pack competed against one another to find out who had the fastest car for the pack. Members of the pack’s newest charter, The Warren. G. Harding Masonic Lodge of Poulsbo, were the judges and had some close calls to make. Members of Boy Scout Troop 1571 also helped setting up the cars and making sure all the rules were followed.

“What I’ve learned this year is you come in light and add weight,” said Ted Tweten, one of the event’s organizers. His son William wound up having to remove weight from his car but it was still eliminated in the early rounds.

There were various theories as to what made the hand-crafted vehicle fast.

While the scouts had to use the car kit, they could add small weights to anywhere on the car to give it weight and theoretically, speed. Sometimes a car with weight on top would win, others that were low to the ground and had a low center of gravity would take the lead. The lanes could also play a factor into how a car performed, too, several people noted.

“I kind of wanted to make it look cool but I tried to make it go fast so I put weight on the bottom,” said scout Jackson Rambough, 8.

Cole Coddington, 9, believed that adding weight to the underside of the car helped by making it closer to the track.

“So it cuts the wind over the car and make it as heavy as possible,” he said.

Reed Rambough, 10, said he sanded the axles down to make them go faster.

“We also found out that the heavier, the better — aerodynamic, fast, heavy — in this case, is good, but you can’t go over 5 ounces,” he said, noting he was encouraged to use different grades of sandpaper to get a nice finish. “I wanted it to be fast and I wanted it to look good.”

Boy Scout Troop 1571 member Stephen Booher, who was one of two scouts in charge of setting up the cars on the tracks, said he believes the car needs to be fairly small but also have the weight in the front.

“If it picks up speed in the down part, it goes faster in the straight part,” he said.

“Friction — or the lack of it,” said 1571 member Nick Polizzi of what he believes is the most important, as well as adding a little grease to the axles. “A little bit of weight in the front gives a bit of an edge but mostly it’s the friction.”

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