Pinewood Derby Memory – The Flying Car Investigation

Last night was the practice and “unofficial” weigh-in for our Pinewood Derby. This being the rookie season for my Tiger Cub we decided to practice positioning our car on the track. The first run was great – all went well and the car was fast. The second run was a cardiac tester!
As background, the starting gate mechanism on our track is controlled by an electromagnet. A long plate of steel holds the starting pins in place. When the switch is thrown, the electromagnet is disabled, causing the steel plate and the starting pins to fall.
Here is the official account of the incident.
THE SETTING: Four or five Tiger Cubs curiously milling around the starting gate (actually the launch pad for this story), two or three parents checking out the competition, one Webelo manning the starting switch, and two cars on the track.
THE LAUNCH EVENT: As the starting switch is thrown, the cars take off for a split second and then are abruptly jolted. One of the cars goes airborne (you know which one don’t you) in quite a spectacular fashion and climbs to an altitude of five feet above the launch pad. The car appears to be in slow-motion as it flies about twelve feet, trying desperately to defy gravity.
THE IMPACT: A padded concrete landing followed by alternating impacts with two folding chairs, and a final bounce to the concrete for good measure.
THE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: No mechanical defect was found in the starting mechanism; no earthquake reported or predicted, leaving only the four or five curious Tigers to interrogate.
THE FINDING: Two Tigers found it fun to grab onto the steel weight at the start. Apparently the cars started but a Tiger reversed the direction of the weight causing a starting pin to launch the car.
THE DAMAGE REPORT: The car was nicked and scuffed a little but still performed well.
CORRECTIVE ACTION: Keep little hands away from the machinery.
Keith Lindsay
Halifax, Pennsylvania
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 6
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