Are you putting together a Pinewood Derby race? Charged with assembling a set of rules? You might be wanting to create a bunch of rules designed to ensure with absolute certainty that the kids will build the cars, not the dads. You want to prohibit springs, shaped wheels, changing axle locations, and exotic lubricants. You think this will make the race more fair.
This is the first in a series of articles aimed at race officials. In the series you’ll learn why complicated rules hurt the kids and the integrity of the race.
In sports, the kid who’s faster, stronger, and more skilled than the rest is praised. His talents are rewarded. But in pinewood derby, the geeky kids who like math and physics are told that their talents are an unfair advantage. The kids who spend the time researching the science behind building a winning car are considered cheaters and next year we’re going to create a rule to prevent them from being creative and coming up with new ideas.
Sure, there are some dads who will do lots of the work on the cars and build an unfairly fast car. But do you think your rules and restrictions are preventing this? All you’re doing is eliminating the easy adjustments the average kid can make and understand. The complicated tricks and techniques aren’t prohibited and you’ve just made it more likely that the winning car was built by dad.
My car last year had four-wheel independent suspension, low-energy wheels, a low-inertia design, and minimized braking friction with all the advantages of bushings and washers. It was something that no kid is likely to be able to build. It was also completely legal according to most sets of rules I’ve seen.
What are you going to do when a kid enters a car like that?