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Derby Made Easy!

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Chapter 6. Getting Ready for Race Day

This chapter deals with the variety of details that must be addressed before the derby can take place. These ideas should make the actual race day go very smoothly.

Distribution of Car Kits
Kits can be distributed to the boys in a number of different ways. The key to a successful kit distribution is giving the rules AND a tip sheet out at the same time. The tip sheet is a very important document to the beginning car builder. Lets face it, there is not a lot of intuitive logic in building the car. I have heard so many heated discussions of contradictory explanations as to why a particular car won or lost that it almost seems like cars should never make it down to the bottom of the track! Gather up all the tips you can find and give them to each participant and most of the really sad situations will go away. The appendix contains some of the ideas I have seen that actually work. Regardless of the method that you use to distribute, remember that the rules and the tips will make for a better, smoother event. Here is a list of some ways that the cars can be distributed:

  • Perhaps the simplest is to have them for sale at the Pack meeting before the race.
  • Rather than just selling the car, I recommend that there is a “registration fee” to race and that the fee includes a free car kit. Begin registering racers at least 1 month before the event date. No one can race unless they pay the registration fee. This method allows the fee to also cover awards and other expenses.
  • Have the pack pay for the cars. That way everyone can get a car. The only problem with that is, obviously, the cost. We used to give out the car kits, wrapped, at the Pack Christmas Party.
  • Have a sponsor pay for them. Then have the sponsor come to distribute the kits--that way they get even more exposure. Be sure to have a photo and a press release for the local paper!

Training Judges
Once you have your judges you should provide a brief training session for them. Judges, especially experienced judges, may believe that there are certain outcomes desired in the race. Some may think that that being the fastest car is the most important above all else. Others are very lenient or too strict. Many times, “non-rules” will creep in. If the judge is questioning the cub about who helped him with his car when there are no rules pertaining to construction help, then that judge is inventing rules.

The best bet is to assign each judge a particular area of responsibility. One judge will be in charge of physical dimension checking; another weigh in. Bring in some cars, and have each judge practice the assessment of the car based on the rules assigned to them. Cover an overview of all the rules, the spirit you want for the event, error handling and complaint handling techniques. Of special interest is the two areas of judging which are “subjective.”

Determining the best paint job and best use of patriotic theme is sometimes very difficult. Judges should be given the entire list of categories and criteria so that the try and fill all the categories at the same time. I have found that several judges, using a consensus method, will yield the best results. When faced with two perfectly painted cars, the judging panel can negotiate each car into a winning category. Judging should be done in plain sight of all the scouts and families and should not begin until the races are over. This allows the scouts to observe (from a distance) the effort spent is selecting the winners in the design categories and makes the award all the more valuable. Discuss this with your judges and be sure that they understand the goals of your derby.

The second area of “subjective” judging is which car came over the finish line first. While in my experience there aren't very many close heats, there is always some races that are contentious. The finish line judge should be in charge of the race and the finish line judge should be the same person for the entire race. All the other judges should understand that. The finish line judge will enforce the rules about car failures, track failures, and the like. The key areas to cover in the training of the finish line judge are how to report the results, how to rerun a race, how to address concerns about the lane assignments, track conditions, cross winds, and claims that Tommy’s dad hid a jet engine in his car!

Track Building and Testing
The track is the single icon of the Derby Race. It can stand as a symbol for all that is good and exciting about competition, or it can be reviled and despised as the cruel manipulator of fate and fortune that it can be. (OK, perhaps I exaggerate... but only a little.) The difference is often the lack of some clear packaging tape! If you are building a track for the first time, many different resources exist for guidance in that area. If you are reusing an existing track, be sure to set it up and check it before race day. Have a kit ready for race day with clear tape for covering seams that are not smooth, spare screws and bolts to replace the parts lost when you carry it into the building, a utility knife for shaving the center guide rail that swelled up from the water spilled on it, rubber bands or springs to replace the starting mechanism and a hammer for the close fitting parts. Have the kit ready and you are ready to go.

Snack Bar
The snack bar should be fully planned with as much redundancy as possible. If you are planning to cook hot-dogs on an electric griddle, bring an alternative. I like to prepare a check list that I “test” by running through a few rehearsals. The first time I did this, I had my son come and “buy” a hot dog and drink. Gave him the drink, cooked up the hot dog, forgot to have change and had no way to get the relish out of the jar! Better to practice and make a list until you have everything covered. I have seen onions but no knife to cut them more than once.

The physical structure for the snack bar is also very important to pre plan. If you have a kitchen with a counter, check the kitchen for supplies before the race. If you are using a “soda wagon” from a local beverage distributor, ask to see one or ask what's inside. If you are set up in the corner of the building, be sure you have tables, chairs, and a way to keep small hands from hot surfaces and a good first aid kit for when all else fails!

Other Activities
In preparation for race day, all the activities should be planned out and all necessary equipment or supplies are in place. Also inspect the room and determine where each activity will be placed.

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