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The Flying Car Investigation

Last night was the practice and "unofficial" weigh-in for our Pinewood
Derby. This being the rookie season for my Tiger Cub we decided to practice
positioning our car on the track. The first run was great - all went well
and the car was fast. The second run was a cardiac tester!

As background, the starting gate mechanism on our track is controlled by an
electro-magnet. A long plate of steel holds the starting pins in place.
When the switch is thrown, the electro-magnet is disabled, causing the steel
plate and the starting pins to fall.

Here is the official account of the incident.

THE SETTING: Four or five Tiger Cubs curiously milling around the starting
gate (actually the launch pad for this story), two or three parents checking
out the competition, one Webelo manning the starting switch, and two cars on
the track.

THE LAUNCH EVENT: As the starting switch is thrown, the cars take off for a
split second and then are abruptly jolted. One of the cars goes airborne
(you know which one don't you) in quite a spectacular fashion and climbs to
an altitude of five feet above the launch pad. The car appears to be in
slow-motion as it flies about twelve feet, trying desperately to defy

THE IMPACT: A padded concrete landing followed by alternating impacts with
two folding chairs, and a final bounce to the concrete for good measure.

THE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: No mechanical defect was found in the starting
mechanism; no earthquake reported or predicted, leaving only the four or
five curious Tigers to interrogate.

THE FINDING: Two Tigers found it fun to grab onto the steel weight at the
start. Apparently the cars started but a Tiger reversed the direction of the
weight causing a starting pin to launch the car.

THE DAMAGE REPORT: The car was nicked and scuffed a little but still
performed well.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: Keep little hands away from the machinery.

Keith Lindsay
Halifax, Pennsylvania

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 1, Issue 11

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