Electronic Pinewood Derby
In 1995, the person in charge of the Pinewood Derby (Niels Nielson)
for Pack 163 in Corvallis Oregon USA, decided that the pinewood
derby track the pack owned was unworkable. The track segments
didn't fit together well, and there were allegations that some
lanes ran faster than others.
Niels took on the task of building a new track.
As long as it was a new track, he also wanted to incorporate
an electronic timing device in the hopes that the races would not
drag on quite so long.
Dave Regan took on the task
of building the electronics (for which he had no skill) and
writing a simple program to deal with the electronics
(for which he is qualified).
The strategy of the new track is to run every car on each
lane of the track, and take the average time. By running
in every lane, we average out problems with fast or slow
lanes, and by taking time measurements (good to 1/1000th of
a second) we avoid running heats to compare each car directly
against all other cars.
To keep the drama of the evening alive, we have a contest
for each den in the pack. The first, second, and third place in
each den gets appropriate awards.
If there is more than one den of a particular rank, we take the
top two cars in each den of the given rank, and have a race
to determine the "best of rank".
Once that is complete, we take
the fastest 8 cars in the pack, and have a run off. These
run off races aren't strictly necessary, but it keeps people happy.
It also shows how cars age, as the cars don't necessarily turn in the
same times during the run off as they did in the qualifing races.
This web page is to serve several purposes:
- It allows other people a chance to see
what we have done,
and to borrow ideas that they like, and for them to
create their own track. All of the programs used are
available here (without any warranty or support).
- Document the track design.
While a derby track looks simple there are some things
to watch out for.
- Document the electronics.
This doesn't have to be looked at too often which means
that nobody will ever remember how it is supposed to
work. It also allows others to look at the electronics.
- Document the program.
A year between races allows people to forget much
of what they knew.
- Document the supplies which
need to be collected before the race.
- Document the procedures
for running a race so that new people
joining the race team have a chance of knowing what's going on.
- Describe some hints at trouble shooting
and possible things which might go wrong.
- Give our theories as to what makes a fast
pinewood derby race.
- Possible variations which may be more
interesting to the kids. Remember, this is really all for the kids.
This Pinewood Derby Racing Web Ring site is owned by Dave Regan.
How to join The Pinewood Derby Racing Web Ring.
Last modified 27 May 2006
Questions or comments can be sent to