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Increase Interest and Competition with a Pinewood Derby Workshop

Workshops are a great way to build interest and to assist new car builders.
Most often, the workshop is unstructured, allowing builders to work
independently. However, other workshop formats might be appropriate for
your group. Here are several workshop formats that you might consider
hosting for your organization.

Build a Car

For groups with many first time participants, a 'Build this Car' workshop is
a good fit. For this workshop select a simple plan (probably a wedge) and
determine any added material (weight, paint, etc.) and tools that will be
needed. Then create a flier with the date, time, and place; and include any
materials that the participants are expected to bring. To minimize
no-shows, plan to supply some of the basic materials such as sandpaper,
weight, paint, etc., and pre-charge a nominal fee to cover the expenses.
Finally, prepare a template and a simple step by step procedure, and make
enough copies for all participants.

At the workshop, either take the whole group through each step, or let each
parent/child team work at their own pace, and provide coaching as needed.

+ Good hands on experience for first time participants
- Many of the cars will have the same design

Technique Demonstration

This type of workshop is similar to a craft show on television (e.g., New
Yankee Workshop), as an experienced builder demonstrates how to build a car.
This type of workshop is appropriate for groups with some experience, but
who would like to see a 'master craftsman' in action.

Prepare the necessary materials to build a particular car design, and
determine how long each step will take. To speed up the demonstration,
acquire 4 blocks, and perform pre-work as follows

Block 1 - Untouched
Block 2 - Rough cut complete, ready to shape
Block 3 - Shaping complete, ready to sand
Block 4 - Sanding complete, ready to paint

At the workshop, step through the various building steps, but skip though
most of the time consuming activities of rough cutting, shaping, and
sanding, by using the prepared blocks.

The workshop should also demonstrate axle/wheel preparation, lubrication,
and alignment.

+ Good way to raise the level of competition in a group.
- Considerable preparation is required for the presenter; not a hands-on

Time Trial

For groups with an interest in speed techniques, a time trial workshop might
be well received. In this workshop, two cars with changeable wheels, weight,
and weight location are raced against each other to demonstrate the effect
of various design techniques. To prepare, build two flat cars with no added
weight. Place vertical wooden pegs at the front, back, and middle of each
car. Use drilled axle holes so that axles/wheels can be quickly inserted
and removed without the need for alignment.

For the first car, polish the axles, prepare the wheels, and lubricate. For
the second car, prepare three sets of wheels/axles as follows:

Set 1 - No preparation
Set 2 - Polished axles, prepared wheels, no lubricant
Set 3 - Polished axles, prepared wheels, and lubricant

For both cars, purchase metal washers to use as weight. Determine the
needed amount of washers to reach 4, 4.5, and 5 ounces for each car.

At the workshop, run a preliminary heat where both cars have the same
configuration. Remember how many inches apart they are at the finish line,
and which car won.

Then stage several heats. Car 1 will consistently weigh 5 ounces with the
weight on the middle peg. Car 2 will be equipped as follows:

1. 4 ounces in middle, wheel set 3
2. 4.5 ounces in middle, wheel set 3
3. 5 ounces in front, wheel set 3
4. 5 ounces in back, wheel set 3
5. 5 ounces in middle, wheel set 1
6. 5 ounces in middle, wheel set 2

Estimate the difference at the finish line for each heat and adjust for the
difference found in the preliminary heat. Then have the audience
participate in understanding why the various design changes caused the
result found in the heat.

+ Good way to demonstrate the benefits of certain techniques.
- Considerable preparation is required for the presenter; not a hands-on

Open Workshop

Of course, the basic Open Workshop is appropriate when many of the
participants do not have access to a variety of tools, or when the group has
a mixture of experience. In this workshop, car builders come to the
workshop to gain access to tools and to learn from others. One or more
experienced builders should be available to coach and assist as needed.

+ Provides needed tool access and coaching
- Tends to not draw as many participants as the other methods


Workshops are a great way to generate interest and to level the playing
field. Whether you use one of these formats, or one of your own, plan to
have a workshop.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 1, Issue 11

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