Watermelon Trumps Pizza, or Surviving Our 1st Pinewood Derby

Our Girl Scout Service Unit hosted its very first Pinewood Derby this weekend. A Powder Puff Pinewood Derby, to be exact. (Yes, because girls are involved, it must be a Powder Puff event!) The event was a fundraiser for the S.H.A.R.E. Family Partnership Campaign, which supports the Girl Scout program in Southwest Texas.

For a mere $10 per girl, we got an official Derby kit--block of wood, axles and wheels. I pitched the event to both of my Girl Scout troops as a "great father-daughter activity"! After all, the Pinewood Derby is the classic Boy Scout event invented by a Boy Scout Dad who wanted another activity he could do with his young son. Furthermore, I had no desire to wield a saw or drill for this project and passed the ball to my loving husband and father of these kids.

For several weeks, the two blocks of wood remained two blocks of wood. I casually mentioned that there were websites chock-full of ideas and design plans (according to my friends who are Moms of Boy Scouts) for Dad and girls to peruse. I reminded Dylan that we would probably need to borrow some equipment (jigsaw anyone?) unless he planned to whittle the wood into a the shape of a car by hand. Two weeks before the Derby, the girls had not brainstormed ideas for their cars with their Dad, there were no designs drawn on paper, no additional materials had been purchased, no tools were borrowed, and the blocks of wood were still blocks of wood.

Dylan, who although was a Boy Scout once upon a time, could not remember ever making a Derby car in his youth. Fortunately, advice from Boy Scout Dad-friends, by phone and in person, got the ball rolling before I blew my top about this project! (I hate doing stuff last minute when it can be avoided.) Thank you, Geoffrey and Steve, for the nudges in the right direction and for slightly freaking Dylan out with the myriad of Derby car possibilities! Dylan, and the girls when appropriate, cut, drilled, stripped and polished over two weekends.

I decided I could speed things along by supervising the "decorating" aspect of the project. Thalia and Carys, by that point, had come up with 'themes' for their cars, so I pulled out the paint and paintbrushes so they could turn their now-wedge-shaped pieces of wood into the cars of their dreams.

Slice of Pizza, anyone? Thalia's Pepperoni Pizza Car!

Carys's Watermelon Racer: From Page to Reality!

We were told that weights were needed to get the car's weight to 5 ounces, the maximum weight allowed. Cars that are far below this weight apparently don't stand a chance of winning. So weights were purchased, adhesives researched and weights attached with epoxy glue.

Now here is where Dylan's relative inexperience with craft projects really stood out-- he attached the weights with gobs and gobs of epoxy glue! As one who is rather familiar with craft supplies, I know that you apply glue of any kind rather sparingly. On the morning of the race, the weights were just swimming in glue, not at all dry or attached to the car. Some fell off when the car was picked up! Yikes! I removed the weights, wiped off a ton of glue, reattached the weights and prayed the glue would dry in time for the race.

Race time! Thalia and Carys were dressed in their Girl Scout uniforms and a bit confused about the whole race thing. So were we! Our "pit crew" consisted of me, Dylan, Lola and Lolo. Lola and Lolo were actually the "veterans" of our crew, having done Pinewood Derby over 25 years ago with my brother when he was a Scout.

The cars were weighed on the "official" race scale and race officials very generously offered us free weights and Krazy Glue if we needed them; we did. The post office scale we used to weigh our cars were not as precise! After registration check-in, the cars were "impounded" until the Daisy-Brownie heats started.

Cars at Check-In

Impound Area

It was really fun to see all the different styles and designs of cars in the race! There were only a handful of Daisies (Carys was one of six), but quite a few Brownies entered the race. You could tell right away which Dads had made these before! (Not ours!) Only one other girl from my two Girl Scout troops entered a car in the race, and hers was very creative and clever-- a Percy Jackson and the Olympians-themed 'Hermes' car!

Mia's Hermes Car!

Each car raced in four heats, in each of four lanes on the track borrowed from the Boy Scouts. Very clever. The times for each heat were averaged together by their sophisticated Pinewood Derby software. The only thing missing was an electronic Leader Board (unfortunately not loaned by the Boy Scouts)!

Before the Race: All Smiles

The Girl Scouts sat on the front row, right next to the track and could see how well their own cars did against the other three in their heats. There were oohs, aahs, squeals, claps and yes, tears.

Waiting, waiting, waiting and the agony of defeat

Carys's Watermelon Racer was the first of ours to race and came in 1st place in Heat #1! We were so tickled and proud! But then Thalia's Piece of Pizza Car entered the race--she would race against her sister in three of her four heats! And then it really got interesting!

Results after both cars' 4 heats:
Carys v. 3 others: Carys placed 1st

Carys v. Thalia and 2 others: Carys placed 1st, Thalia placed 4th

Carys v. Thalia and 2 others: Carys placed 1st, Thalia placed 2nd

Carys v. Thalia and 2 others: Carys placed 1st, Thalia placed 3rd

Thalia v. 3 others: Thalia placed 3rd

It was so exciting to watch their cars speed down the track! The Dad who pulled the lever for each race commented that Carys's Watermelon Racer was one of the fastest cars in it! We kind of wished Carys and Thalia's cars hadn't raced together, but it was a lesson in good sportsmanship between sisters. Thalia was gracious about it all, just as a Girl Scout should be, and grumbled only a tiny bit! Carys, for her part, wondered out loud "Why did I win alot?"

However, winning all of your heats doesn't guarantee that your car will place 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Overall speed determines the winners, and Carys's car came in 8th while Thalia's was 17th. They didn't win any of the medals either for special categories, such as "Pink and Sparkly" or "Best Design." But just being there with a car that didn't fall apart in the middle of the race was quite an accomplishment, Dylan and I thought!

So Proud of My Girl Scouts!

The girls are already looking forward to next year's Powder Puff Pinewood Derby. Carys has been strategizing since Saturday, pointing out that perhaps her next car should focus on one of the special medal categories.

We celebrated the girls' Pinewood Derby success at Mamacita's, which reminds one of the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. The girls loved the animatronics and Mexican village! What a day!

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