level the playing field

General race coordinator discussions.
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Pine Head Legend
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level the playing field

Post by Speedster » Sat Dec 14, 2019 11:04 am

I chose "General Off Topic" so I wouldn't be reminded of my age. That's meant to be a joke.

It was mentioned on 12-12-2019 in a Topic that a District was considering drastic things to try to "level the playing field. I would like to express my thoughts on this and then hear from those who would like to express theirs.

I'm going to assume this is about speed and nothing else.

How do you make a block of wood go down a hill fast? FOLLOW SCIENCE !
No one can level the playing field by making rules. Any rule made will benefit the builder following science. Think about the "4 on the ground rule" , probably the worst rule ever made. The BSA kit with heavy blocks, light blocks, out of round wheels, round wheels (maybe) and the nails.

The only way I know how to level the playing field (a little bit) is to teach the racers the Physics of the Pinewood Derby, have available Troy Thorne's book, Build A Winning Pinewood Derby Car 2013 edition, direct them to Derbytalk, and have a workshop available to them.

I would like to hear ideas from others.

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Darin McGrew
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Re: level the playing field

Post by Darin McGrew » Sun Dec 15, 2019 2:48 am

I've seen adults try to use workshops as a way to cut down the "tall poppies", by requiring that all work be done at the official workshops and even by prohibiting parental involvement during workshops. But except for that aberration, I think workshops are a good thing, and that it's better to teach everyone how to do something than to attempt to prohibit it with new rules.

But our derbies have always been preceded by several workshops, and we've made a deliberate effort to keep our rules simple and easy for elementary-age kids to understand (and comply with).

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Re: level the playing field

Post by mclewis_13 » Sun Dec 15, 2019 5:31 am

For me leveling the playing field is making all my tools/jigs available to all the kids participating. I don’t keep speed secrets. I openly prep/build my stuff at the workshops. I talk to the kids about what I am doing and what I used to do it.

Last year was our first year but we provided paint, sandpaper (up to 2000 grit), graphite (we borrowed a track so we used dry line only), weights (we bought Walmart out of fishing weights, we are using tire balance weights this year), scroll saw, band saw, drill press, drill jigs, etc. We didn’t restrict where work could be done but all the kids that were at the workshops won their divisions. And the kids whose dads did all the work got smoked. :mrgreen:

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Re: level the playing field

Post by Kenny » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:11 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in. Happy New Year!

I’m going to take a potentially different view on this topic and suggest that organizers focus on stratifying the field through classification or categories and keep the guidelines as loosely defined as you can. Trying to “level the playing field” may seem like a good objective but in trying to achieve total parity, you just end up failing a group of people for failing to expose them to what’s possible. That’s a shame.

IMO, PWD should as loose as possible (dimensions and weight limits for racing) to allow flexibility in focusing on innovation, design, and speed for all participants. Legislation just gets in the way. Policing can also distract from the fun, and if the policing results in an accusatory error, the consequences can Be devastating to a child. Assuming a kid didn’t paint his or her own car because it looked “too” good comes to mind as a toxic real-life example I encountered once. Some kids have access to great teachers, tools, and a burning desire to high achievement. Why not press them to it? Their peers likely already know this! Why handcuff anyone? No manner of access to tools and expertise will motivate an unmotivated child if they aren’t interested. Release the hounds! Let’s see what the interested kids (and their adults) can come up with! Let the uninterested kids see what’s possible too, they may have a change of heart next year.

Kids have various abilities, drive, and competitiveness just like their parents. Some are interested in speed, some in being as slow as possible, others love the derby destruction facet (king of the hill destruction derby is a huge hit!), some kids are more interested in looks, some just like being Glow in the dark or different. To me, this warrants paying equal tribute to each of these “classifications” and each category being equally incentivized for excellence. But it has to be real. Not everybody works as hard. Not everybody gets the big prize. Creativity, and work should equal results.

The beautiful thing about the racing classes is that there is no subjectivity in declaring a winner for fastest or slowest by age group. Winners are obvious. Same for last man standing destruction derbies. In design and aesthetic competitions, however, its much tougher.

Subjectivity is always tough and achieving neutral truly bias is challenging. Finding ways to avoid the popularity contest in the judged classes, such as blind anonymity, is helpful before the big reveal and awards.

IMHO, the kids are painfully aware that some kids have OCD engineer or rocket scientist moms and dads who may also be very competitive. They will be very hard to beat. Other kids, they get it. Let them marvel at the possibilities. They’ll figure out a way to get in the game somehow if they really want to put in the time and the work.

The truth is, most just want to have fun on race day. They want to display their creations and measure them against the “real” field. They all know some of their peers are over achievers. They know their parents aren’t as good at building stuff as their buddies. Their moms and dads are great at other stuff though. Like leading the scout songs, Dutch oven cooking, or funniest campfire skits. They’re ok with that.

My .02 anyway.


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