Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pack 6201 Pinewood Derby 2011

This past Saturday was the pinewood derby for my son's cub scout pack.  There where twenty-nine scouts and one sister of a scout participating.  The event was very well run, and the participants were excellent sports.  It was a good example of what scouting is supposed to be about.

For those of you who are not familiar with the pinewood derby, the scouts (and their parents) build a car that is raced down a track that starts with a decline.  The only power to the cars is provided by gravity.  Our track used an electronic timing system that measured the times to one hundredth of a second.


The cars are supposed to weight less than five ounces, measure less than seven inches long, and use the official axles and wheels.  Other than that, there are very few rules about car construction.  Here is a picture of pinewood derby cars on the internet.  (I don't have a picture of my son's car on me right now.)
Pinewood Derby Cars
I was lucky enough to volunteer to record the times for the cars.  Most people would see that as work, but I got to collect all of the data on the cars and bring it back home with me.  Outside of the times, the weight of each car was recorded to the ten thousandth of an ounce.  There are more variables that control the performance of the car, but this at least gave me one independent variable to work with.

In addition to recording the times, I plugged a webcam into my laptop.  We had a projector hooked into my laptop to display the results, and when the cars were racing, I was able to display the image from the webcam on the wall.  (That's how I recorded the video.)  I called it the "redneck jumbotron".  One of the interesting aspects of the day was that parents wanted me to display the results on the screen so they could take a picture of the display.  The kids would get close to the webcam during their race, and would rather watch themselves on the wall than watch their race.
A proud parent
I've begun to analyze the data that I collected.  I have been working between two Excel spreadsheets, and the organization is slowly appearing.  I'll give the breakdown of the data soon.

P. S.  If you are wondering how Team Sears did, we were dead last.  I would be OK with last, but we were between two and three standard deviations slower than the mean time.  I'll be spending the next twelve months figuring out why.