for a Shape N Race Derby, Pinewood Derby, etc.
Shape N Race Derby, Pinewood Derby, Kub Kar Rally—whatever you call it, a derby is a lot of fun, and it's a great opportunity for learning and for making memories.
My own Shape N Race Derby Page provides resources for both derby participants and organizers. This document lists resources and products provided by others. Unless stated otherwise, I have no direct experience with any of the products or other resources listed here.
I have separate sections for
The following are sources for free derby information.
- Pope's Pinewood Pages Portal presents Stan's advice on building faster derby cars, as well as a thoughtful discussion of derby race scheduling and a build-it-yourself electronic finish gate originally designed by Kristin Hammond.
- Michael Lastufka's Hobby Science Manuals provide excellent information about derby cars, model sailboats, and other projects.
- Cory's Pinewood Derby Site (formerly the Pack 146 Pinewood Derby site) includes the results of thorough experiments with different car configurations.
- USSSP's Pinewood Derby includes step-by-step instructions for organizing a derby.
- Dave Regan's Electronic Pinewood Derby documents track plans, finish gate electronics, scheduling software, and the process of organizing an annual derby.
- Derby Talk is an excellent online forum for derby coordinators and derby racers.
The following are sources for free derby software.
- USSSP's Pinewood Derby Reference Materials is a download site for Neil Gould's free Stearns Method derby software.
- Chris Sutton's Pinewood Derby Excel Spreadsheet implements a chaotic-rotation method for groups using a three- or four-lane track.
Books and Videos
I believe that most organizations that sponsor derbies also publish their own derby how-to materials. It's a good idea to read the information published by your organization (especially if your group plans to participate in a regional derby), since it will include any organization-specific rules, procedures, and guidelines.
- Christian Service Brigade's Shape N Race Derby Book (subtitled Everything you need to run your own derby) provides a good overview of the steps involved in organizing and running a derby, and includes plans for a four-lane track (from which I adapted my on-line track plans).
- Pope's Pinewood Pages Portal includes Learn to Build a Winner, a "web book" describing simple step-by-step instructions for building a well-optimized car. The author emphasizes techniques that are within the capabilities of elementary-age children. He requests that anyone who finds it useful donate $10 to the W.B. Boyce Council (his local BSA council).
- Maximum Velocity publishes the booklet Speed to the Finish! The web site also offers booklets containing templates and step-by-step instructions for building derby cars.
- The Winning Edge pubishes the booklet How to Win a Pinewood Car Derby.
- Pinewood Pro publishes the booklets Winning Pinewood Derby Secrets and Pinewood Derby Car Design in Six Easy Steps.
- Pinewood Derby Physics offers the book The Physics of the Pinewood Derby, a CD-ROM with Windows-based virtual race software, and other speed-oriented products.
I believe that most organizations that sponsor derbies offer derby kits and accessories through their supply catalogs. It's a good idea to use your organization's official kits (especially if your group plans to participate in a regional derby), since your organization's rules, procedures, and guidelines will assume the use of its kits.
Next, check with your local hobby/craft store. Most will have a small section set aside for derby kits and accessories, including decals, lead accessories (drivers, headlamps, rollbars, etc.), lead weights, wheel- and axle-polishing tools, and other goodies.
The following organizations and companies sell derby kits and accessories.
- Christian Service Brigade
- Maximum Velocity
- Indy Products
- Royal Racers
- PinewoodLights (LED light kits for derby cars)
If you can't build your own track (e.g., using my Four-Lane Derby Track Plans), and you can't borrow a track from a nearby organization, then consider buying a pre-built track from one of these companies. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, and I have no experience with their products or service.
The traditional derby track design uses center lane guides, which the cars straddle. The inside surfaces of the wheels contact the outside surfaces of the guides.
An alternative derby track design uses side lane rails, and the cars run between these rails. The outside surfaces of the wheels contact the inside surfaces of the rails.
- Micro Wizard sells wood and aluminum tracks, both with center lane guides.
- BestTrack sells aluminum tracks with center lane guides.
- S & W Crafts Mfg. sells wood tracks with side lane rails.
- SuperTimer sells SuperTrack, an ABS plastic track with side lane rails.
- Derby Magic sells PVC plastic tracks with center lane guides.
- Make Tracks Company sells wood track kits, with either center lane guides or side lane rails.
Electronic Finish Gates
Here are some things to consider when comparing electronic finish gates.
- Sensor location
- Most starting gates are located in the center of the lane. Therefore, the finish gate sensor should be located in the center of the lane also. For example, if the finish gate sensor is located at the wheel, cars with long noses will have an unfair disadvantage because their front wheels start behind the front wheels of other cars.
- Sensor type
- I think that optical sensors are more reliable than mechanical sensors (switches), because there are no electrical contacts to corrode and no moving parts to break or wear out. I've heard that visible-light optical sensors are subject to spoofing by flash photography, and that infrared optical sensors are immune to this effect.
- Sensor accuracy
- Let's assume a final speed of 15 feet/second, which is probably in the ballpark for many derby tracks. A difference of an inch (clearly visible to a human judge) is a difference of less than 6 milliseconds (thousandths of a second). An electronic finish gate should be accurate to within a millisecond or less, otherwise you might have results that are obviously incorrect. More accuracy is even better.
- Display of results
- Are the results displayed in a clear, unambiguous manner? Are the displayed results sufficient for your race method? If your preferred race method requires first-second-third results, then don't buy a gate that only displays first place.
The following organizations and companies sell electronic timers and finish lines. I am not affiliated with any of them, and I have no experience with their products or service.
- Micro Wizard sells Fast Track timers.
- eTekGadget sells SmartLine timers.
- New Directions sells The JUDGE finish lines.
- NewBold Products sells TURBO finish lines.
- SuperTimer sells SuperTimer timers.
- Awana Clubs sells Racemaster finish lines.
- Swanberg Technologies sells timers.
The following are sources for commercial derby software.
- SuperTimer sells RaceManager software.
- KySoftWorks sells RaceTender software.
- Enterprising Ideas sells DerbyMaster software.
- AgentZ sells Grand Prix Organizer software.
- Lisano Enterprises sells GrandPrix Race Manager software.