Ohio State Shares Secrets on “How to Build the Fastest Derby Car”

Written by Trevor Thompkins and prepared by The Ohio State University EcoCAR Communications Team

I have a theory that in reaching adulthood, people begin to forget what it is like to learn something for the first time.  For a growing child, there is excitement in witnessing something they have never seen before, or understanding a new concept.  When the light turns on in a child’s mind, you can see it instantly radiate across their face as their mind powers up and their imagination takes off.

The Boy Scouts of America Pinewood Derby is a familiar competition to The Ohio State University (OSU) EcoCAR team and one that provides a fun learning opportunity to Cub Scouts across the country. In years past, the Ohio State EcoCAR team has helped prepare future engineers by showing them how to build the best Derby car possible.

Andrew Huster contemplates designs for Pinewood Derby vehicles.


Members of the OSU EcoCAR team continued the tradition by recently helping a local Cub Scout Troop in order to prepare them for an upcoming Pinewood Derby competition. Ohio State mechanical team leader, Tom Brown, and I both had experience with Pinewood Derby Cars early in our lives and can attest to the positive impacts and challenges that Derby car building can bring (and the experience led us to bigger vehicle competitions…like EcoCAR 3!).

The Cub Scouts, parents and some excited Scout-little sisters visited the team at the OSU Center for Automotive Research (CAR) on a rainy Saturday morning.  The rain did not damper the spirits of the children, as they were excited to set off on a tour of our facilities.  Led by co-engineering manager, Jason Ward, the group walked through CAR’s various engine labs, dynos and sound labs.  The team fielded questions from the boys, girls and even the parents who were very interested in what we had to say about green technology.


Tom Brown and Jason Ward lead the Cub Scouts through the Center for Automotive Research.


After the tour, we thought it was time to have the Scouts get some hands on experience with Pinewood Derby cars. After designing and building three of our own Pinewood Derby cars, the OSU EcoCAR team asked the Scouts to predict which car would go further on the track based on the car design. The Scouts quickly understood what made the cars travel the fastest – which we think is a pretty good indication that they will have some fast cars at their upcoming competition.

I was glad that the Ohio State team had the opportunity to spend time with the Cub Scout troop and their families. This outreach event was a reminder that learning will always have the power to amaze, to entertain and to bring a smile to one’s face!

Get more information on Ohio State EcoCAR’s Cub Scout event and more by visiting our website or by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!