Cub Scout Tylor Handley of Pack 654 in Nikiski sizes up the competition before the Tustumena District Pinewood Derby at the Peninsula Center Mall on Saturday. The race was part of the 2006 Scout-O-Rama.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
There was a blur of blue and gold this past weekend at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, as scores of Cub Scouts were revved up for the Tustumena District Pinewood Derby.
“This is the big one,” said Bob Romanko, a Scout master from Homer overseeing the event.
The race was part of the much broader 2006 Scout-O-Rama event that also included monkey bridge building, Dutch oven cooking, bike maintenance and popcorn sales.
As Romanko explained it, Saturday’s pinewood derby was to determine the best of the best, since this district race was for those who have already placed at races at the pack level.
“We’ve got Scouts here from Homer to Nikiski to Seward,” Romanko said.
In all, more than 50 kids from roughly five packs competed, while many more were in attendance to cheer on their pack mates.
Bryce Jensen, an 8-year-old Scout from Kenai’s Den 11 Pack 669, was among those in Saturday’s race. He had placed well in his pack derby last month.
“I came in second,” he said.
He was hoping to again stay ahead of the competition on Saturday with the sleek design of his all-black car that bore a striking resemblance to the Batmobile.
Like all the boys in the race, Jensen had stated with a kit of nothing more than a block of wood, two axles and four wheels.
From there he shaped it and added modifications, hoping to find that perfect balance between physics and friction that would allow maximum velocity.
“I tried to make it as light as possible and put weight on the front to help push it down,” he said.
Jensen’s mother, Arika, said that her son built the car with his dad, but Bryce only had minimal adult help.
“He did most of it by himself. Everything except the dangerous parts with the saw,” she said.
On Saturday, the proceedings were official. All cars were inspected and weighed before the race to ensure that none were over the 5-ounce maximum weight allowed.
“If it’s even 5.1 or 5.2 they have to shave some off,” said car inspector Jeff Owens.
Although Owens was there to make sure all cars were legal, he also offered tools and advice to help racers’ performance.
He had weights and glue for cars that needed it, helped a few kids with pointers on how to better balance their wheels and, most importantly, he sprayed graphite lubricant onto the wheels for those who wanted it, and nearly everyone did.
“Graphite is the only dry lubrication allowed,” he said.
This may seem like a small advantage, but since the races on the 32-feet pinewood race track were timed to the 1,000th of a second, racers were looking for any advantage they could get.
“Timing to a 1,000th of a second may seem like overkill, but last year we had two kids tie for fourth,” Romanko said.
He said the race can get pretty competitive, but at the heart of it all was good fun and some valuable life lessons for the Scouts.
“The kids learn about craftsmanship, sportsmanship, following the rules they really get a lot out of it,” Romanko said.
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