By Walter Brooks
When my son left for a Caribbean holiday two weeks ago he left me in charge of his son Will's Pinewood Derby entry. It may have been the most important mission in my adult life.
That's easy to say because there are many both in and out of my family who think I'm still mentally about 16. I also had derby experience 35 years ago when that self-same son won a couple derbies as a cub scout himself.
The Pinewood Derby, for those of you who lack Y chromosomes in your kids, is a vitally important annual scouting event wherein Cub Scouts (with far too much help from their fathers) construct racing cars out of identical kits with little more than a block of pine, two wire axles and four plastic wheels.
It is what the two guys do with those three elements which determine the winners.
After all, similar objects with the same density and weight will fall at the same rate. The only difference is the friction the objects encounter as they fall, or in this case, glide down a long, slotted track toward an electronic finish line.
This Cub Scout idea for fun is to give each kid a block of pine wood, two axles, four wheels, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let them add their imagination. What comes out is a design for a Pinewood Derby race car.
Each entry is carefully weighed before it is placed into competition and must not exceed 5 ounces. The cars can not be longer than seven inches and are checked to see if they fit on the slotted track.
With a couple hundred parents, grandparents and kids in the Stoney Brook School gym Sunday the adrenaline was pumping, the cars were flying and the audience was cheering.
With only three slots on the track, and 95 entrants, it took dozens of races to winnow down the field to the final three cars.
The event began at 11 Sunday morning. By 2:45 they were down to the last three cars, and that final race is shown on the right.
First Will Brooks of Troop 73, Tiger Cubs, won against his troop mates. The scout leaders told the younger cubs they could hang around if they wanted to race against the older cubs a few hours later.
My grandson Will won every heat his #32 racer was in. He won them all.
I can now face his father, my son, when he returns from his holiday tomorrow.
And if you'd like to try your own racing skills, go to the Cub Scout site here and click on "Pinewood Derby" for an animated race of your own.