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:

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Last modified 27 May 2006
Questions or comments can be sent to Dave Regan.