Preparing for the Pinewood Derby

Brad Odom, Cub Scout Troop 647 leader, assists Michael Guzman and his father, Alex, with their first Pinewood Derby car at the shop at the Darlington County Institute of Technology on Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Brad Odom, Cub Scout Troop 647 leader, assists Michael Guzman and his father, Alex, with their first Pinewood Derby car at the shop at the Darlington County Institute of Technology on Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Local Cub Scouts are treated to a special workshop opportunity at DCIT.

The car racing culture of Darlington transcends every imaginable way to residents of this small southern city, from the powerful NASCAR cars circling the track Too Tough To Tame broadcast to fans across the globe, to the small wooden cars handcrafted each year by Cub Scouts to race in their annual Pinewood Derby. Both events employ strategic planning, work and dedication for the same result: send the fastest car down the track. Except, one does not require gasoline.

The troop members of Darlington Cub Scout Packs 504 and 647 recently spent the evening cutting out their chosen race car shapes from blocks of wood at the Darlington County Institute of Technology, thanks to the DCIT’s Teacher of the Year Al Gray. In addition to being the Agriculture and Horticulture Instructor at DCIT, he is the proud grandfather of scout.

“This is my first year helping, in the past, I’ve just watched,” said Gray. “At my grandson’s last scout meeting we discussed that not many families have access to the right equipment and tools, so I told them I’d open up the shop and let them come out here – that way, we can all help the kids together.”

At the conclusion of the shop time, Gray gave the group the ’50 cent tour’ of the facility, much to the delight of the youngsters.

Gray’s grandson, Johnathon Zarko, age 11, has been in scouts for three years, and this will be his third race.

“The hardest part is figuring out the design,” said Zarko. “There are thousands of different designs.”

Zarko lined up all his supplies; his sister is also doing a car, and she chose decals to place on hers.

“I did three different designs this year,” continued Zarko. “I decided on a sporty design- the name was ‘Destroyer’.”

Damien Stewart, age 10, stood in line to get his car style cut from the skil saw with his father, William Stewart.

“We cut our cars differently this year,” said Damien. “Last year we noticed the track was a lot longer at the end, and so this year we are going to make the car a little different, so it’ll be faster and go further.”

Damien plans to paint his car yellow, with black lines, and add his favorite number.
“I’m going to put 24 as my number, because my favorite NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon is #24.”

Damien’s father, William, has enjoyed helping his son on these competitions. “I didn’t do this as a kid, it’s a lot of fun,” said William. “He has done a pick up truck, and a tractor trailer this year he is going to try a Camaro. This year, Damien is going to do all the sanding and all the work himself – I’m just overseeing this year.”

Cub scout leader Vedia White of Troop 504, shared that this project is highly creative.

“The kids design their own cars,” said White. “They design for speed, for which car looks the best, which is sportiest. They really, really get in to the competition. It has to weigh 5 ounces; it can’t weigh over- it can weigh under but not over. It must be Boy Scout approved axles and wheels, there is a lot of stipulations that we have to follow.”

According to Vedia, the kids are not the only once competing – many of the troop leaders and parents work on cars and race against the other adults separate from the youth.

“Every year I lose, but, the competition is still fun.” she said.

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