Thursday, May 15, 2014

Library Sponsored Public LEGO Track at the Pinewood Derby!

So last summer we were able to partner with the Boy Scouts to bring in a Pinewood Derby track for our LEGO Chima party. The next logically awesome step was to create a free track at the Pinewood Derby, JUST for LEGO cars!

The last time I attended a Pinewood Derby was sometime in grade school, so I knew nothing of the magnitude of today's races-- this was at the mall and there were computers to calculate exact times and everything! There were upwards of a hundred Boy Scouts and their families there from the surrounding counties (we're a city of 50,000 people, but we're the largest city for at least 2 hours on the freeway in any direction). The enthusiasm was contagious.

The normal Pinewood Derby lanes cost 4 dollars to race, and this money paid for the prizes the winning kids got. In order to "sponsor" a LEGO track and provide it for free to the public, all we had to do at the library was supply the LEGOs and agree to not give away prizes (they ended up giving me a trophy to give away anyway, because it's the Boy Scouts).I brought some Cri-Cut "blue ribbons" with a picture from the LEGO movie on them and our logo that I gave to all participants. Just like with Chima, the kids built their entire structures and the wheels were put on right before it was time to race. Some tracks need special wheels to race LEGO cars; the troop I worked with had made us some over the summer, but you can purchase them at places like here.

If you want to get with your local Boy Scouts to offer a free LEGO track at the Pinewood Derby, here's some things you need to know:

1. Your contact will probably be titled District Executive. Find that person on your area Boy Scouts website. Contact them in the summer , October at the latest, to be considered to be part of the derby. The first meeting I went to was in December for the April event, but that was because they were already sold on having the library participate.

2. Any derby-related question the kids ask during your event can probably be answered with "that doesn't happen at this track." Since the LEGO track is (or should be) free and open to the public, all the kids need to do is build a car out of LEGO. They doesn't need extra weights, or anything else they'll probably ask you for that they added to their derby cars. Yes, their cars can survive for a little while without wheels. Pinewood Derby stuff is intense, man, and they've been breathing it all year. Just don't ask Boy Scout staff about whether a kid can add weights, or whatever, and just say no. Your 2 hours will go so much more smoothly.

Line 'em up as soon as they're done
3. In that vein, put your table out further into the public space than the rest of the tables. This was something my contact and I thought about for next year (that's right, we're ALREADY in for next year!). Even though we had around 60 LEGO car participants, they were mostly Boy Scouts and their families (with some library regulars who knew we'd be there). Putting it out in the public sphere will widen our outreach to people who may not have thought the track was FOR THEM. That said, I've seen more Boy Scouts at the library and at our programs than I did previously, and it probably has something to do with our involvement in the Derby!

4. Give some visual guidelines. Adult common sense would say that the best LEGO Pinewood Derby racer would look like a regular Pinewood Derby car ("short and long, not tall and square"-- I must've said that 30 times that day). Help kids grasp this idea by providing visual guidelines. I provided pictures, but it worked much better once a Scout leader gave me an actual Derby car the kids could measure theirs against.
Ready to Race v. Not Ready

That's all I can think of! If you have any more questions about making this partnership work for you, get at me at brycedontplay at gmail or PLSanders on Twitter and I'll walk you through it. This collaboration works great, because: 1) The Pinewood Derby is such an exclusive thing happening in a public place, and the Boy Scouts are happy to get some more excited eyes involved, and 2) now that the Boy Scouts know what we provide, we've been invited to do some STEM programming at their summer camp, and they're always thinking of other ways to partner! It's a win-win, really.


  1. I hope you realize that my Pinterest "library ideas" board is basically just pins of your blog posts. This is AMAZING!!!! Love it.

  2. Hahaha! That's what I'm here for. At least you don't print them off and save them in a physical file like people from Olden Times anymore ;)

  3. This is so cool! What a great idea; thanks for sharing.
    Happy day,
    Miss Lisa, NC