From the community-shaking feats of Eagle Scouts to the creativity of Cub Scouts, any parent or volunteer who’s seen Scouts in action will tell you: Never underestimate them.
The same is true when you marvel at the designs and speed of the Pinewood Derby creations cropping up all over your social media feeds this time of year.
Yes, they’re sleek. Sure, they’re intricate. And, of course, moms and dads are helping their Cub Scouts by manning the tools their kids are too young to handle (because that’s safe, and family bonding is the whole point).
But don’t get it twisted: Cub Scouts come up with some out-of-this-world Pinewood Derby car designs. And they bring those cars to life with personal elbow grease and by enlisting the appropriate adult guidance — as any good youth leader would.
One Scout mom recently shared the evolution of her son’s Pinewood Derby cars (and his Scouting ingenuity). Read on to see all the work a Cub Scout puts into designing a car.
How This Cub Scout Leveled Up His Pinewood Derby Design Skills
Grayson P. is a 9-year-old Webelos in Pack 535 in Loganville, Georgia. He and his brother are third-generation Scouts — so when it was time to prep for Grayson’s first Pinewood Derby at age 6, he had heard A LOT of Scouting stories.
His mom, Heather, explains:
We talked about if he wanted to design a car for speed or showmanship. His response was in true 6-year-old fashion. He wanted “a car that looked cool.” We looked through generic templates to find a shape that struck his fancy. He won first place for Tigers that year and moved on to our district finals. At district he won second place and moved on to the council finals.
There, he saw so many cars that didn’t necessarily look like cars, which inspired his next year’s creation. After he received an electric guitar for his birthday, he wanted to make a guitar car. His father is a musician so he liked the idea too!
We took to the internet to see how to make it. Since Grayson is a homeschooler, we use these projects as math and art lessons and take opportunities to introduce physics.
Grayson cut and made the guitar template, taped it to his block of wood and traced it out. His dad took the opportunity to teach him the details of guitars, what each part was, how it worked, etc. We took what we learned from building his Tiger car – what worked for him and what was hard for him to do – and made adjustments.
He liked the glossy finishes he saw at district finals. We had the idea to try nail polish instead of paint. The brush was small and easy to control. It had that high gloss he wanted and there was endless possibilities in shades of red.
Again, he placed first place for his pack and moved on to district! Then, he placed first at district and second in the council race.
Working Toward a New Pinewood Derby Goal
When the next Pinewood Derby season rolled around, Grayson had set a new level he was striving to beat. With two years of ultra-successful races in the bag, what could he achieve next?
The answer came in the form of a literary classic and a brotherly quest for exploration.
This past fall the boys fell in love with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. After reading the books, we started studying the Mississippi River.
We saw a story about three brothers whose childhood dream was to canoe the Mississippi. We watched as these brothers canoed their way from northern Minnesota to the gulf, the preparation it took, the obstacles they came across, the improvisation they used. I guess it struck a chord with Grayson.
Inspired by a tale of the Mighty Mississippi and brothers who made their dreams a reality via canoe, the Scout set out to make the canoe Pinewood Derby car of his dreams!
Building On Experience
The quest for his dream racer began with a ton of research, a new template and a mini-canoe model for inspiration. Plus, Grayson had a desire to put some new skills to work.
He earned his whittling chip so he wanted to incorporate that into the canoe build, while his father handled cuts with the bandsaw.
All the canoes he had seen online had woven seats so he wasn’t happy with the popsicle sticks he had originally cut. So he wove the seats with paracord and glued this to the popsicle-stick seat.
He is very intent and intentional with detail. To the extent that even the LEGO man had to be to spec. He needed a red beard and plaid shirt so it looked like his daddy.
He mixed several shades of green to create the shade he wanted for the canoe and used Old English tinted furniture polish and a paint brush to darken all the wood accents. With the help of brush-on super glue and some tiny furniture claps it was finally finished.
So what’s next for Grayson? His mom says this year he’s working on a hawk-themed car. Plus, the races are now a family affair.
He won most creative with his canoe and his brother won first place in showmanship. We were a little worried he would be upset that his brother was moving on to district and he wasn’t. Instead he was so excited for his brother. His response was, “I go every year, I have lots of trophies. I am glad Gavin gets to go.”
Never Underestimate the Creativity of a Cub Scout
Every time you spot an awesome Pinewood Derby car, just imagine the work and detail young Scouts pour into these creations. Like the pine wood blocks Grayson transformed into amazing designs, a Cub Scout’s ideas grow into something no adult can predict.
“There are things he still needs help with, but he is involved in every step of his cars,” his mom says.
And as for the help Grayson receives from his parents, it’s a great thing. Heather says of her son and husband:
The Pinewood Derby has given them some major one-on-one time. That’s much needed being the oldest of three homeschooled boys.
His dad had very little wood-working experience in the beginning of this. It has given them both a sense of pride and accomplishment to see ideas come to life. We hope Grayson can make these woodworking skills a hobby he can always enjoy and pass down.
Know of an incredible Pinewood Derby car masterminded by a Cub Scout? Let us know about it in the comments and include a picture of the finished car!