Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Debates and discussions on the various race scheduling methods that can be used and their fairness and accuracy in determining the winners.
Post Reply
peiss
Apprentice
Apprentice
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:42 am
Location: Corry, PA

Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by peiss » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:11 am

I am new to scouting although i was a scout as a boy. this year was my son's first PWD and he and i spent about an hour or two on his car every day. Although i am frustrated about the results and scheduling of the day, i will always remember building that car with him.

Let me list my frustrations.
1) It is so well known in our pack that two brothers are going to win first and second, that many boys do not even bother trying to build a car because the race is so focused on who is going to win (yep you guessed it, the brothers father is a big part of the day.)

2) almost 50% of our boys raced three races and then they were done. My son came in third place three times and even though he was eliminated from the second round, he almost made it. At 6, he is not able to understand how well he did for having a dad who made sure his 6 year old actually built his car. All he saw was that he finished last 3 times and was out.

3)We had some major problems with the software and one of the timing eyes did not pick up two cars on two separate races. At first we were told to just keep going, but when the results came back for who was going to the second round, (and those results were shown through a projector on the wall), we had to go to manual scoring because one of those boys whose cars time did not register was one of the boys who came in first or second in the end.

i know i am the new guy, and we are supposed to have our committee meeting this week, but here is what i am looking for. I feel we need to drastically refocus this day back on the entirety of the boys, not just on the winners and more specifically, one family. If this is all about winning, then it changes the way dads (or moms) approach building the car. But if this is all about the boys having fun, (my 6 year old had more fun after most people left and he was allowed to run his car down the track time and time again) then i need to do something.


We have a three lane track, about 23 or 24 boys, and a completely misplaced focus. i need help in finding what i can do to restructure this thing, new scheduling methods, etc.

if anyone can help me i would appreciate it. i do not want to see that look on those boys faces for one more year. even the applause at the end of the whole thing was muted because everyone knows who is going to win. i want to make this fun again for everyone else. I am not taking anything away from the boys who won. they had the fastest cars and it was easy to see that. But, what i do need is help in making sure that winning is not the end all be all of our PWD.

Help
Thanks



User avatar
Go Bubba Go
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 1201
Joined: Sat Nov 18, 2006 1:09 pm
Location: Northern, Illinois

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by Go Bubba Go » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:17 am

Kind of in a rush, but let me give you my initial quick thoughts.

First off, the fact that you and your boy enjoyed the time together building the car is the main thing IMO, don't ever let the outcome of the race or any "controversies" eclipse that experience for you both.

Now, to your frustrations (by number):

1a) In some respects my 2 boys are the "two brothers" you speak of for their den and for our Pack (1st and 2nd last 2 years, 2nd and 3rd the year before that). We have spent a lot of time holding workshops for other parents, sharing our "secrets" widely, and opening our home to other parent / boy teams to help them out at PWD time. At our most recent Pack meeting (led by the Web IIs - it was their last meeting) 2 of the boys presented me with homemade awards to thank me for helping make the PWD fun for everyone in our Pack. I only mention this here in the thought that the dad of your "two brothers", or you (after doing some homework and getting better at this thing) might "take up the cause" for your own Pack. I certainly continue to challenge my own boys to "Do Their Best", I will not allow them to "dumb it down", but at this point and age for them "Doing Their Best" includes helping their Den and Packmates all to go faster, look better, have more fun with PWD. Even though the others haven't surpassed my boys (yet - they're breathing down our necks now), they are going faster and achieving success now at the Council races for their particular ranks. They (and their parents) also appear to be having more FUN!

1b) Do you also include Best Design, Best Paint, etc. other awards for the boys? Or do you award Speed, Speed, and nothing but Speed. Speed is great, but you might want to consider other awards as well (lots of posts here on that subject).

2) Hopefully Stan, Randy, Darrin or one of the other guys will chime in on the "Scheduling" thing. One advantage I see to the way we run our Pack races is that we use average times, use the Perfect N selection from GPRM and it generates a schedule that allows all the boys the same number of runs in a sort of random order that keeps the boys all engaged until their Den is finished.

3) Not sure what to say about hardware, you might want to post the particulars (what kind of setup i.e. Microwizard, "The Judge", etc.) and reach out to the vendor as well. Those vendors tend to be very helpful (esp. 24x7 Stuart at Microwizard), and you will likely get some feedback from forum members here as well.

If this was your boy's first PWD because he is a Tiger and you will be around for 4 more years, I would encourage you to get engaged on the PWD committee (as well as learning well the "basics" of making faster cars i.e. wheel and axle prep, weighting, etc.). Every Pack needs a good (knowledgeable, fair, interested in seeing all the boys Do Their Best) PWD chairman, and every PWD chairman (if he/she is already in place) needs good help.

Bubba

p.s. We learned most everything we know (well, almost) about PWD from this board and others. Think hard, ask questions often, and you will help more (not all, some folks just aren't "into PWD" and some folks only seem to be happy when they're unhappy) of the boy/adult teams in your Pack to better enjoy this "constructive family relationship" experience.


"Who's Grandpa's neighbor?"... Phil Davis, Down and Derby

User avatar
gpraceman
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 4607
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Highlands Ranch, CO
Contact:

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by gpraceman » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:20 am

I would be frustrated too, if that was the case in the packs that my boys have been in.

It sounds like some type of elimination method was being used. There are a lot of discussions on this site about the drawbacks of such methods. Hopefully, the pack will consider one of the non-elimination methods, like Perfect-N type charts. You can still run a multi round format (like Prelims and Finals) but within a round there is no elimination and everyone races equally.

On the issue of the winning family. Maybe you can get the dad involved in the workshops, so he can share his knowledge with others in the pack. People resent a winning family less if they are open to sharing their knowledge and experience.

The other thing that you might consider is to hold workshops for each den. This helps make sure the boys are getting to work on their cars and it is easier to identify who needs more help (some people are afraid to ask).


Randy Lisano
Romans 5:8

Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

User avatar
Stan Pope
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 6888
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:01 pm
Location: Morton, Illinois
Contact:

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by Stan Pope » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:41 am

Dear Frustraded,

I hear you!

I prepared a PowWow session a couple years ago on the subject "Mentoring Pinewood Performance". My PowerPoint support material is at http://www.stanpope.net/ppt/pwp_mentoring.ppt and you are welcome to make use of it if you think that it applies to your situation. A key observation is that "Winning the races is not the purpose of PWD... rather, it is the "hook" by which we encourage accomplishment of the real purposes.

On item #3, dealing with equipment malfunctions, I think that if the electronics give results that are inconsistent with what the audience sees happen, then the electronics should be disregarded. It sounds as though that is what ended up happening, although not as directly as it might have.

Your comments regarding "after the race fun racing" are significant because, at that age, the racing is sometimes more important than the winning and/or losing. Because of that, I like a method that gives enough racing, within the overall time constraints of the event, so as to almost satiate each Scout's appetite for racing. There is a qualifier, though. Some youngsters, after so many straight losing races, would rather stop racing. The method should also permit that reaction without drawing undue attention to the "opt out."

How many races is enough? No single answer, I think. For a few (probably a very few) three last place finishes is enough. For others, five is enough. And, for a few, there "ain't enough time to satiate them". Where is the middle ground.

The method that I prefer recognizes a limit on losses and rewards wins with additional runs. for the duration of racing everyone stays "in the competition" for at least the first half of the period. After that, they start to fall out. And, they can retire on their own with no great hullabaloo.


Stan
"If it's not for the boys, it's for the birds!"

User avatar
ohiofitter
Master Pine Head
Master Pine Head
Posts: 698
Joined: Sat Feb 03, 2007 11:30 am
Location: Uniontown,Ohio

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by ohiofitter » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:09 pm

As long as your and your kid built it and had a good time and can share the memory then you did win......................I'm sorry but I don't mind losing I just try harder next time..What I propose is going down to your local scout store and buying a block of wood and Taking a hour a week with your son and build next years car early............There is so much good information on this forum as well as others ...........Just take a little time an research speed tip and I think you might be able to ruin the to brothers who seem to be a crowed favorite to say.........and then to throw a little salt in the wound make sure you share your info with the other dads who probably know that the boys don't build the car as proposed



User avatar
pack529holycross
Master Pine Head
Master Pine Head
Posts: 556
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2007 5:25 pm
Location: Dr. Phillips, Florida
Contact:

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by pack529holycross » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:12 pm

I would say that if you ran three races, and you have a three lane track, you could suggest that each car runs twice or three times on each lane. This would increase your data stream to reduce the chances for ties, increase the amount of racing for each kid who does not go into the finals round, and generally satisfies the kids although parents will gripe about how long the event has become - ignore the gripes, because as long as you have food, the kids will LOVE seeing their cars race more.

If your timer went out, and you are manually scoring, it is likely you are using points racing? If so, then more runs = more diversity in the final points results.

The only thing I can say about having strong kids in the pack is that every kid has access to generally the same information. Request that there be a derby clinic of their past cars, with instructions on how the cars are constructed for the benefit of the OTHER den winners who will be advancing to District / Council level events.



User avatar
Darin McGrew
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 1736
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:23 pm
Location: Mountain View, CA
Contact:

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by Darin McGrew » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:58 pm

In addition to the good advice you've already received...
peiss wrote:1) It is so well known in our pack that two brothers are going to win first and second, that many boys do not even bother trying to build a car because the race is so focused on who is going to win (yep you guessed it, the brothers father is a big part of the day.)
Workshops help, and it sounds like this family is qualified to help lead them. For us, derby season is about the workshops, and the derby itself is just the culmination of derby season.

How many awards are there? First and second only? Or do they go three or four deep?

Are there any design awards? I prefer "real" design awards, by which I mean that the design awards are not consolation prizes (given only to those who did not win an award during the race), and they are not participation prizes (given to everyone).

Some like including "turtle" awards or "best gas mileage" awards, for the slowest car that still crosses the finish line.
peiss wrote:2) almost 50% of our boys raced three races and then they were done.
Yeah, that's part of why several of us dislike elimination systems for kids' derbies. Or if you're going to use an elimination system, use one that requires more losses before a car is eliminated.

If you've got time for it, allowing free racing after the derby is good. We have to start taking everything down as soon as the final awards are presented and the MC makes the final announcements.

Some have had success (meaning, the kids had a good time) by scrapping the formal racing and awards, and just letting the kids race their cars down the track.



User avatar
Nitro Dan
Master Pine Head
Master Pine Head
Posts: 329
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:11 pm
Location: Felton, PA

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by Nitro Dan » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:42 pm

IMO, Bubba and Darin are saying it best. In order to put the fun back in your derby, you have to devise methods that take those who lose each year and bring them up to the level of those who win. When I started, I was up against the same frustrations as you are now. It was through the advice of this forum that I was able to get things changed and the one thing I was told over and over is that "you have to get involved".

So I bought a few pieces of used equipment through Craigslist, gathered up a bunch of supplies and wrote a proposal for our packs first workshop. Then I showed up at every Pack committee meeting. When it came time to start up the PWD Committee, I was there volunteering, armed to the teeth with great knowledge and superb information. I worked hard and picked wisely the battles I needed to fight. With time, eveything eventually changed. Now the PWD is our pack's most attended event and win or lose, everyone walks away satisfied with their results.

-Nitro Dan


Take good and make it great. Take fast and make it faster. Performance drives success!

peiss
Apprentice
Apprentice
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:42 am
Location: Corry, PA

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by peiss » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:14 am

Thanks for all the advice. I first need to say that i do not mind my son losing. What i was frustrated with was the fact that many of the cars who were much slower than his had the chance to feel like they accomplished something by racing even slower cars. It is not in the winning and losing itself, but the sense that the day could have been different for him had he registered 10 or 15 minutes later. Also, it wasn't just my son. There were a great number of scouts who left hanging their heads. I am going to make a few turtle cars for next year, and will gladly accept the job of PWD Coordinator if given the opportunity. Not so that my son wins a race, but so that every child has the chance to feel like they accomplished something more than just making the car. My son still plays with his at home.

I feel like some of what i wrote may have gotten taken the wrong way. I do not dispute the kids who had the fastest cars, i do not expect anyone to dumb it down for the sake of the pack, and i would never blame anyone for doing their best and being faster than everyone else. I was just frustrated over the fact that it felt like the entire afternoon was simply to get in, race, eliminate the losers, and elevate the winners.

We had trophies for 1, 2, 3, and an award for Best of Show, and the kids who wanted to stay after could race their packs and receive a pack ribbon. What i worry about is the discontinuity between the fun of making the car and racing it verses the idea of only being there to find out who made the fastest car. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a great feeling to win, i did when i was a scout and often went to districts. But if the day is only for the top few, then it does have a negative impact on the other 19 or 20. I sound like a bleeding heart, but so many kids worked so hard to race a few times then leave, that i feel like we are missing out on a great opportunity not only to teach about competition, but also about unity and fun.

Can someone give me a link or something to find a better scheduling method. i found one in which every car races every car using the point method, but it only goes up to 21 cars, and we had 23. I tried it myself for about 3 hours, but could not seem to make the method work. I guess that is why my profession has nothing to do with math.


i truly appreciate all the advice and honestly want to make sure that no one thinks that i am critical of the boys who won or their father for being so involved. what i was critical of was the method used throughout the day. there just has to be a better way.



User avatar
Go Bubba Go
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 1201
Joined: Sat Nov 18, 2006 1:09 pm
Location: Northern, Illinois

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by Go Bubba Go » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:59 am

peiss wrote:i truly appreciate all the advice and honestly want to make sure that no one thinks that i am critical of the boys who won or their father for being so involved. what i was critical of was the method used throughout the day. there just has to be a better way.
FWIW I didn't take anything you wrote as being critical of the Dad or boys, but rather of the seeming "predetermined outcome" being a bit of a downer and the overall apparent focus on getting to the outcome.

As far as the "predetermined" part goes, I do believe that either that Dad or you (with some study :wink: ) could help elevate the performance of many boys in the Pack so that even if the 1st and 2nd place still go to the "two brothers" (at least until they cross over), the rest of the Pack becomes more competitive and the chase for 3rd, 4th, etc. becomes more exciting (not to mention the opportunity to be more competitive at District or Council races if you have those).

As far as the focus on getting to the outcome goes, it does sound like the current method you utilize gives too many boys too few races and has them exiting the "mix" too early. Whether the answer lies in a multi-elimination method or an average times method with more mixing of competitors per each heat, I'm not sure. I prefer the average times method with Perfect N scheduling (we use GPRM for this), but others might disagree. We also run our races by rank, with each rank taking under an hour including the boys themselves performing the design judging, staging their cars, etc. Any more than an hour and nearly all the boys (even those still "in the mix" start to lose interest or get rowdy).

Bubba


"Who's Grandpa's neighbor?"... Phil Davis, Down and Derby

User avatar
Stan Pope
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 6888
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:01 pm
Location: Morton, Illinois
Contact:

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by Stan Pope » Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:11 am

peiss wrote:Can someone give me a link or something to find a better scheduling method. i found one in which every car races every car using the point method, but it only goes up to 21 cars, and we had 23. I tried it myself for about 3 hours, but could not seem to make the method work. I guess that is why my profession has nothing to do with math.
I think that the minimum heats solution for the conditions that you indicate is to race on two lanes with each racer running 11 times in each lane. That is a total of 253 heats.

Why so many? And, why only 2 lanes?

The reason it took more than 3 hours is that, if there is a solution, it would require more heats than you would be willing to sit through. IIRC, the number of rounds required is determined by the minimum integer solution to the equations
K * (# of Racers - 1) = (# of Lanes - 1) * (# of Lanes) * (# of Rounds)
Where K is the number of times each racer races against each other opponent and # of Rounds is the number of times each racer races in Lane 1.

Note that there are two unknowns and one equation plus the side condition that all the variables are integers. It is not a simple algebra problem, but rather a problem in number theory.

But finding out how many rounds the solution has (if a solution actually exists) is just the first step. Next, one must find the combinations of racers to be used in each round! This is usually a job requiring more than just a few hours.


Stan
"If it's not for the boys, it's for the birds!"

User avatar
gpraceman
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 4607
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Highlands Ranch, CO
Contact:

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by gpraceman » Fri Jan 30, 2009 11:04 am

peiss wrote:Can someone give me a link or something to find a better scheduling method.
General discussion of a variety of scheduling methods - http://www.rahul.net/mcgrew/derby/methods.html

Description of the Perfect-N type schedules - http://members.cox.net/pinehead/methods.html

PPN Generator - http://stanpope.net/ppngen.html
This generator is also built into some software packages.


Randy Lisano
Romans 5:8

Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

grizenko1
Apprentice
Apprentice
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:08 pm
Location: Finger Lakes, NY

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by grizenko1 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:26 pm

I use a simple program called Excelderby. You need to have Microsoft Excel to use it. It uses Perfect-N scoring and you can plug in as many racers as you want. You can also use it with a projector and best of all its free. Here is the link - http://northernlights.nsbsa.org/Pinewoo ... lderby.htm

Hope this helps, I know it helped our Awana group.



jrz_dad
Pine Head
Pine Head
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2004 1:26 pm
Location: Lawton, OK

Re: Frustraded With PWD and Need Help

Post by jrz_dad » Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:30 pm

FWIW; we used to hold double elimination derby in our pack simply because the District uses this format. Our old reasoning was that if its good enough for everyone else, its good enough for us...

Well, after being out of the pack for a couple years, I was asked to come back and help "re-establish" the pack (we lost LOTS of members). One of the things I did was to change to the Standard Method of racing that is within our DerbyMaster Software (basically, the Stearns Method). I was not sure how it would work but nothing ventured - -- -

anyway, as it turned out - the BOYS and PARENTS loved it! Naturally, the fastest cars did win, but we were pleasantly surprised at the number of ties that had to be broken by using something other than Point Wins!! Every boy who raced felt they were "in it" until the very end - and every boy got to race more than twice like previous years...There were LOTS of smiles at the end of the day and no tears that I can recall!!!

Stearns may not be the best method out there but for our first try at something different - we're hooked and not going back to 2x elimination -

Hope this helps!!

James
ACM Pack 185
Elgin, OK



Post Reply