Engineering outreach to Cub Scouts with hands-on activities pertaining to the Pinewood Derby car race Academic Article uri icon


  • Since the Pinewood Derby (PWD) began more than fifty years ago, it has been one of a Cub Scout's first encounters with engineering principles. The PWD is an event in which seven- to eleven-year old Cub Scouts, with help from parents or leaders, construct a car out of a simple block of wood, four nails acting as axles, and four plastic wheels to race down a track under the power of gravity. Concepts such as friction, energy, roughness, and dynamics are indirectly learned as a result of a car's performance. To promote engineering education to elementary-level children, these concepts are taught to Scouts and their parents through the use of an outreach program, the organization, methods, and assessment of which will be discussed in this paper. Consisting of several stations to demonstrate the effects of rolling and sliding friction, wheel alignment, and weight distribution, the outreach program allows the Scouts to experience first hand how they can improve their car's performance. Hands-on activities as well as actual data also help keep the Scouts interested and motivated to build the most optimized car, and concurrently learn basic engineering principles. Since the PWD is held annually among hundreds of groups internationally, outreach programs have the potential of impacting thousands of Scouts every year and provide a basis for continued interest in engineering. © 2006 TEMPUS Publications.

author list (cited authors)

  • Solzak, T. A., & Polycarpou, A. A.

publication date

  • November 2006