Calais Cub Scouts Continue a Long-held Tradition, The Pinewood Derby

Photo: Scouts cheer on as cars race down the track. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

 A rite of passage for many boys, especially those involved in scouting, is racing a chiseled and chopped block of pine down a half-parabolic track, in hope that their car is the fastest of them all. While the fancier design often yields a last place finish, the chance to experiment with engineering, woodworking, competition, and hopefully spend time with a family member or responsible adult helping craft the car, always makes a sure winner. This is the tradition of the Pinewood Derby, held at Washington County Community College, on Saturday, March 11th. Calais Scouting Troop 132 organized the event, in preparation of the district-wide competition, the 25th of this month, to see who is the fastest of the pack. This speeding piece of a former coniferous will vie against other cars made by racers from here to Bangor, and then hopefully, the state. It is this type of event, with kids cheering and getting exciting for something that is about as technologically unchanged as the wheel itself, the racing advantage often comes down to simple Newtonian mechanics and darn luck. While scouting has changed in the years since Robert Baden-Powell first thought city kids needed some direction and skill training, the Pinewood derby remains a welcome constant, albeit with a slight evolution in designs. 

The cars at the event displayed a full range of imagination and personal styles of the boys, aged as young as 6 to 12. Braden White's hunter-orange lego-inspired block, logo in-all, won the ballot for favorite design, other unique and intriguing cars included,  fittingly for scouts, ecologically themed whale, spouting water to boot, a Pikachu car, to a hot-dog in a bun. While the more flashy cars catch the eye, they often don't take home the trophy for first place. Historically, a simple wedge shape carved out of the block of pine has always won, but with today's technology, newer designs have proven to be faster and allowable. The rules require a car to be no more than 7-inches by 2 ¾ inches wide. Built out of a standard kit provided by Boy Scouts of America, consisting of a block of pine, four wheels and axles, the rest is invention and imagination. The day's winning car was a black slender racer, evoking a circa 1920's roadster more likely to be found taking a mountainous curve somewhere in Bavaria. Still within the technical specifications for the race, and made from the standard kit, both creativity and engineering ingenuity proved to be the extra edge in deciding the winner. Colby's car will race against the other local derby winners from the district, and hopefully beyond.  

 While many think scouting is just camping, being a goody-two-shoes, and matching neckerchiefs, they'd be surprised to know how far the organization has come and what transcendental traditions remain relevant today. With STEM being the educational mantra of this generation, the Pinewood Derby is a microcosm of everything that scouting teaches and offers. If you're a parent or a boy interested in scouting contact the troop and see for yourself just what scouting offers, and what you will offer scouting. Be prepared! 

Area cubs scouts pose with their cars after the derby. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).


Ethann Coleman 3rd,  Colby Mulholland 1st, with prizes for design and creativity to Logan DePriest,  Conor Croman and the People's Choice to Braden White's Lego-inspired car. Not pictured, 2nd Place, Max Cassidy. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).