Children in 2014 have an array of sophisticated electronic toys and games at their disposal, but on Saturday at two locations in Harford County, the attention of two groups of boys and girls was captured by simple wooden cars on a short track.
Members of Cub Scout Pack 234 of Riverside and Pack 899 of Fallston participated in their organizations' Pinewood Derby, an annual Cub Scout tradition for decades.
Cub Scouts get to race the cars they have worked with their parents to design and build.
"It's one of the highlights of the program for the kids," Derek Moses, assistant cubmaster for Pack 234, said during Pack 234's Derby Saturday morning at the Riverside Community Center.
The pack is chartered through the Riverside Community Association.
The 38-year-old pack leader noted he still has his Pinewood Derby car from when he was a child.
"There's a sense of pride and satisfaction from them having made something and seeing it perform," Moses continued.
Chris Robinson, the pack's 13-year-old den chief – a role filled by a Boy Scout – said his brothers keep their Pinewood Derby cars and race them at home.
"They have as much fun with those as the regular toys," Chris said.
While the tracks have become more sophisticated over the years – both Cub packs used lightweight metal tracks and software programs to measure the cars' speeds and where they placed – the Scouts still used the cars that they and their parents had designed and carved from wooden blocks.
"That took plenty of time from electronics," Pack 234 parent Jim Frattali of Riverside said of the attention paid to the design process.
Frattali worked with his sons Alex, 7, a Wolf Cub Scout, and Zach, 5, who is not a Cub Scout, to design and build their cars.
He said the design process was a great opportunity to teach his sons lessons about properties of physics such as friction and gravity, as well as the principles behind "weights and measures."
"You get them involved in everything you can, and it really gives you a great opportunity to have dialogue," he said.
The Pack 234 scouts got their car kits in December and had a month to get ready for the Derby, as did the scouts in Pack 899 in Fallston who also held their Derby Saturday.
Pinewood Derby cars cannot weigh any more than 5 ounces, and also have height and wheel base limits, according to Cub Scout leaders.
The kits include the wooden block for the body, four wheels, axles and decals.
"They all just start as a big square block," Mary Pohlig, Pack 234's committee chair, explained.
Children work with their parents on the cars. While they can be designed in any manner to make them faster, the cars must meet the height, weight and wheelbase requirements.
Alex Frattali said his favorite part of making the red and black car was painting it.