Plattsburgh It starts out as a piece of wood, four nails, four wheels and a piece of sandpaper.
Then it is in the hands of local Cub Scouts what to make of that piece of wood and equipment as they prepare for the annual Pinewood Derby races, held in packs throughout the region and country.
In Plattsburgh, the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum and Kids Station holds an annual Pinewood Derby night, which not only helps scouts begin to create their vehicles, but also introduces them to the science of Pinewood.
“I think that it is great that we can take these scouts and teach them some basic things about science,” Museum Executive Director Anthony Vaccaro said. “There is a tremendous amount of engineering and science in something that is so simple. We can talk about friction, aerodynamics, weight, and the alignment of the car.”
This year, Cub Scouts made their way to the museum Jan. 11, getting a chance to learn about how to properly shape their cars, where the weight should go, how their wheels should be placed and more.
“You could spend literally hundreds of hours working to build this little car to make it go faster,” Vaccaro said. “There are some people who take this to extremes, but the basics of physics are here. We as a culture need to have students going in the direction of science, engineering and technology. If we can get scouts and other students at an early age thinking about math and engineering then we can get them excited and in a position to help this country grow as they grow.”
Vaccaro, who helped his own son prepare Pinewood Derby cars as a member of the Cub Scouts, said that along with helping kids learn about science, they also get a chance to work alongside their parents.