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.
"We put, like, a big windshield and a whole racing stripe down the middle," he said, pointing out the black square that resembled a windshield and the black stripe on the bright red body.
While Saturday's Pinewood Derby was the first for Alex in his Cub Scout career, it was the last for Hunter Anderson.
Hunter, 11, is a Webelos Scout, the highest rank in Cub Scouts before entering Boy Scouts.
The cars went through a number of heats before the championship race, and the Scouts cheered as their cars came down the track, which started with a steep slope and then flattened out.
Hunter's car did not place first in several heats, but he was excited, and high-fived his fellow Scouts and his parents, Aaron and Kathy Anderson.
"It's not about the winning," Hunter explained. "It's about being a Scout, how good you are at making cars and mainly about good sportsmanship."
Chris Pohlig, the cubmaster, thanked the Riverside Community Association for its support of the pack.
"We're really fortunate to have the support of the community out here," he said.
There were 54 cars entered in Riverside, including 15 from parents and siblings of the Scouts, and there were 54 cars entered at Fallston as well, including siblings' cars.
Pack 899 in Fallston, which is chartered through the Fallston United Methodist Church, conducted its first sibling race this year.
The Riverside pack also held separate races for family members after the Scouts' races were finished.
Brayden Hill, 9, of Fallston, entered her car in the Pack 899 sibling race. Her brother Spencer, 7, is a Wolf-rank Cub Scout.
Brayden worked with her father to make her car, which was wrapped in notebook paper that had been covered with an adhesive.
She called it "The Paper Car," and had written messages all over the car about her love for her Girl Scout group.
"I am in Girl Scouts and I (heart) Girl Scouts," she wrote.
Brayden said the racing is her favorite aspect of the Pinewood Derby.
"I like to see how fast it goes, and even if I don't win I know that I had fun and that's all that matters," she said.
Noah Harrison, 10, of Fallston, won the first-place trophy Saturday. It was a special win for him, as this is his last year Cub Scouts and he hadn't made it to the championship in previous derbies.
"I feel great," the Webelos Scout said following the win.
Noah's father, Tom Harrison, said he and his son adjusted their design, putting recessed weights in the rear of the car.
They drilled holes in the rear and placed weights in them, and then covered them over.
"The main thing that really did it this year was the recessing of the weights," Tom Harrison said.
Harrison said they had to make a last-minute adjustment to the design when he weighed the car and it was 5.1 ounces.
They drilled several holes though the body to take the extra weight off.
"I'm really proud of him," he said of Noah.
Pack 899 leaders are looking to donate their used Pinewood Derby track; anyone who wants more information can visit pack899fallston.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun