FUN WITH DERBIES
Derbies are activities that bring Cub Scouts and their families together as a den or pack. They can also be used to involve the wider community or as a recruiting effort. Through participation in derbies, Cubs learn about tools, safety, and how to build things. They learn about physics and science. They have an opportunity to bring out their creative side. There are many requirements that can be satisfied by taking part in derbies.
While many packs focus primarily on the Pinewood Derby, there are actually many derbies you can do with Cub Scouts. In this section, we will introduce a number of different derbies, with ideas and tips to make them fun and successful. There are also several internet links for each derby to help you find more information. The best place to find details about many of these derbies is the Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, available at the Scout Shop.
Remember when you do competitions of any kind that every boy needs to feel that they “did their best” as the Cub Scout motto states. Be sure that the competition is healthy but that boys do not feel bad if they don’t win. Recognition can be based on other things such as the design of their project, rather than just how it finished in a race. You can even have the Cubs cast a private ballot to “vote” for each other’s projects.
Successful derbies require good planning and team work. Be sure to adequately prepare and ensure that all necessary arrangements are made so that when it is time for the event, it will go as smoothly as possible, and be fun for everyone!
Author’s Note: The requirements for the new Cub Scouting program starting in June 2015 were finalized after the original version of this document was created. While this document has been updated to correlate with the new program, there may be some tie-ins missing.
The pinewood derby has been a longtime classic for many packs. Car kits are bought from the Scout shop and each boy works with a parent to build their car. Cars are raced by rolling them down a sloped track to a finish line. Strict rules are put in place to ensure each boy has a fair chance at winning.
- Bear Elective Adventure ‘Baloo the Builder’ 3-4
- Webelos Elective Adventure ‘Engineer’ 2 & 4
TIPS & IDEAS
- Be sure to reserve a track months in advance. The Great Salt Lake Council maintains an up-to-date list of tracks for rent within the council. In order to get a copy of the list sent to you via email, call the Council office at 801-582-3663. Some track owners let you borrow the track, others can come set up the track and run the derby, too.
- You can bring variety to the race and make it more fun by requiring a theme, such as “anything except a racecar”. This allows the boys to be more creative and makes it harder to cheat by buying or reusing an existing car.
- Some of the things that help cars to work more successfully are to have the axels straight, to use graphite to help the wheels turn more freely, and to put the weight in the right place.
- Have cub scouts bring their completed cars to be weighed on a day prior to the race. This helps to save time on derby day, and ensures that everyone has the help they need before the day of the race. After being weighed, the car is held by the Cubmaster or a trusted neutral party until the race.
- Including a sheet of pack rules in the box with the car will help everyone to know what the dos and don’ts are so that the competition will be fairer.
- Having a second race for fathers or other family members may give the kids a chance to work on their own cars more. If you are going to do this, make sure you take into consideration the number of cubs racing, the attention span of the audience, the person running the derby, and the time constraints of the owner of the track.
- Many parents may not have a full complement of woodworking tools to help construct a car. You can make arrangements with someone who does have tools to hold a Pinewood Derby Workshop event prior to the race, in which boys and parents can come to work on their car together. This can help parents that do not feel that they have the time, skills, or tools to help their boy complete their car.
- Between rounds when boys are getting cars set up, keep the audience engaged. You can practice cheers, ask the audience Pinewood Derby trivia, and get people to lead the countdown for the race to begin. The more you can engage the audience, the more everyone will have fun, regardless of how well their car is doing.
- “Pinewood Derby Physics”
- Pinewood Derby Trivia
- “50 Incredible Pinewood Derby Cars of 2012” (Boy’s Life)
- The Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 6-26 to 6-29
For the space derby, cubs use a kit to build a rocket out of balsa wood. There is a hole from the nose to the end of the rocket. A rubber band is fed through this hole and connects the propeller in the front to a plastic piece across the back. Cubs wind the propeller several times to twist the rubber band. They then connect their rocket to a taught and level fishing wire. When the rocket is released, the tension from the rubber band spins the propeller and sends the rocket soaring across the fishing wire to the other end of the track.
- Wolf Elective Adventure ‘Air of the Wolf’ 4
- Webelos Elecitve Adventure ‘Adventures in Science’ 3d
TIPS & IDEAS
- You can have different types of competitions, such as first to finish line or most accurate (who stops closest to a marker)
- Balsa wood is incredibly soft. Only use sandpaper to form the rocket, and then be gentle. You don’t want to sand off too much or you will break through to the hole through the middle of the rocket.
- “Space Derby”
- The Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 6-29 to 6-31: includes instructions on building a Space Derby track
- “Space Derby Rocket Assembly Tips”
Each boy builds a model boat from a kit available at the Scout Shop. The race track is a level rain gutter with caps on both ends, filled with water. To race, each boy takes a straw and blows the sail of their boat. The boy whose boat reaches the end of the rain gutter first wins.
- Tiger Elective Adventure ‘Floats and Boats’ 2
Wolf Elective Adventure ‘Motor Away’ 2
Wolf Elective Adventure ‘Air of the Wolf’ 4
TIPS & IDEAS
- Don’t have the same boy race multiple times in a row, or they may get winded or even pass out.
- Be aware that water will get spilled. Either hold the event outside (and hope for no wind) or inside in an area that water won’t cause problems.
- Full raingutters are heavy and will twist easily. Make sure the gutters are sitting on a stable surface, such as a waterproof banquet table and braced properly.
- Since there is not much construction work to be done, encourage boys to go all-out decorating their boats with paint or crayons (wax makes the boat waterproof).
- The Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 6-32 to 6-33
- “Make the ultimate raingutter regatta racer” (Boy’s Life)
- “Raingutter Regatta Tips and Tricks”
Each den gets together to build a Cubmobile, a racing cart just big enough for a cub scout to sit in. The car is set up on a ramp and a single cub scout sits in the driver’s seat. The race begins as the car rolls down the ramp and coasts down a smooth but slightly sloped street to the finish line. During the racing event, each cub gets a turn to race in their den’s car. Cars must be completely human-powered and cannot use any form of propulsion.
- Webelos Elective Adventure ‘Build It’
TIPS & IDEAS
- Make sure the street or parking lot is not too steep or too level, and that there is a long, straight stretch that is safe to block off during the race.
- Make sure there is a safe way to stop the cars, both after the finish line and in case of needing to stop abruptly.
- A variation of this is to put a handle bar on the back of the car and have the other scouts push the car. This makes it possible to use different types of tracks (round, hills, etc.).
• The Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 6-33 to 6-36: Includes plans for the cars and the launch ramp
• “Cub Scout Derbies”
• “Cubmobile Building Tips & Pictures”
• Pictures of Cubmobile Derby
• “Cubmobile Derby”
Fishing derbies can be either a family outing with fishing-related activities or a cub-adult team event. It can include free time for fishing as well as a potluck lunch with fish caught during the event. You can use some of the time while fishing to get to know some of the boys’ parents better.
- Bear Elective Adventure ‘A Bear Goes Fishing’ 4
TIPS & IDEAS
- Make sure all laws and regulations are upheld. Make sure all who are required to have a fishing license have one. Make sure that rules for the fishing area you are in are kept (restrictions, limits, catch-and-release, etc.).
- If serving fish for a meal, make sure there is alternative food available for those who can’t eat fish.
- Be respectful to other people using the same fishing area.
- Utah state law provides exemptions for the fishing license requirement for youth and school groups. In order to qualify, read, print, and fill out the following form: http://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing/pdf/youth_org_exemption.pdf. You do not have to submit this form to DNR, but you must have the form in your possession during the event.
- The Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 6-37 to 6-38
- “Fishing Derby” (Scouting.org)
BOTTLE ROCKET DERBY
Scouts bring a two liter bottle and use it to build a rocket. After putting some water into the bottle, the bottle rocket is secured on the launcher. Compressed air is used to increase the air pressure inside the bottle, and when the rocket is released, it soars high into the air!
In order to construct the rocket, the bottle is turned upside-down. The boys then cut out fins from cardboard and attach them using duct tape. A large “Pac-Man” shape is cut out of the cardboard and joined to form a nose cone. Underneath the nose cone, metal washers and/or nuts can be taped on to provide weight in the nose of the rocket to make it fly straighter.
TIPS & IDEAS
- Launchers can be built or bought, see Additional References for places to buy or to find plans
- Some smaller bottles can also be used, as long as the bottle is long enough to fit on the launcher and the opening is the exact same size as two liter bottles.
- If cardboard is not available, other similar semi-durable materials may be used.
- Attaching fins slightly at a diagonal will give your bottle a nice spin as it flies.
- “2 Liter Bottle Water Rocket and Launcher Pad” (Instructables)
- “Awesome Water bottle rocket launcher” (Instructables)
- Buy a rocket launcher
- “2 Liter Rocket”
- “Make the Fins and Nose Cones” (Instructables)
PAPER ROCKET DERBY
Paper rockets are a fun and inexpensive alternative to other traditional derbies. Building the rocket only takes a few minutes and usually involves rolling paper around a straw or pipe then folding and taping one end down. The rocket is slid onto the launcher and air is used to send the rocket flying.
There are several ways to launch paper rockets. If you roll the paper around a ‘bendy’ straw, cubs can “fire” them off by blowing the other end of the straw. Rockets can also be launched using a bellows-type contraption or a PVC pipe using compressed air.
Derbies with paper rockets can be judged for distance, height, accuracy, or creativity.
TIPS & IDEAS
- If you can find pencils with the same diameter as the straw, you can roll the paper around the pencil and press it around the tip and wrap tape around it to form a nose. You can also add fins and decorate it to look like a rocket.
- This derby can be used with a recycling theme, as a way to re-use paper.
- Before trying with kids, be sure to try it yourself.
- Reward effort as well as performance.
- Keep some extra materials available for repairs.
- “Paper Rockets” (NASA)
- “Build a Paper Rocket and Paper Launcher”
- “Rocket Fun” (SCCC Pow Wow 2005) – includes ideas for other rocket-related derbies
- “Cub Scouts- Space Derby” (Pinterest)
A bike derby, often referred to as a bike rodeo, is a great family event for the pack. It helps boys learn how to be safe on a bicycle, as well as show their skills in races and obstacle courses. Boys can also learn how to protect their bicycle from theft and how to properly take care of their bike.
- Tiger Elective Adventure ‘Rolling Tigers’
- Webelos Elective Adventure ‘Fix It’ 4j
TIPS & IDEAS
- The Utah Department of Public Safety has two bike rodeo trailers available to borrow for you to host your own bike rodeo. Stations, instructions, and supplies are provided (even spare bikes and scooters or those who don’t have one). More information about this free program can be found by visiting http://highwaysafety.utah.gov/pedestrian-and-bicycle-safety/bicycle-safety/bicycle-rodeo-program/. You can also call Utah DPS to ask questions or to reserve a bike rodeo trailer.
- Always make sure safety is observed and promoted. Announce ahead of time that bicycle helmets are required in order to participate.
- Invite a local police officer or fireman to come and talk about safety and help register bikes.
- Set up a bike obstacle course, including going back and forth between cones, throwing a newspaper at a target, stopping and starting, etc.
- Have a ‘slowest’ race, in which boys must ride as slow as possible, but not touch their foot to the ground.
- Invite other family members (younger siblings, etc.) to participate.
- Teach boys to check bikes for safety and how to take care of them.
- If a Cub Scout can’t ride or doesn’t have access to a bike, include scooters, etc.
- Have two long parallel lines drawn, and have the Cub Scout try to stay between them
- Decatur Bike Derby (ideas from a similar event)
- An Organizer’s Guide to Bike Rodeos
- Bicycle Rodeos
- Bike Rodeo Skills Packet (Utah Department of Health)
A kite derby is a great family event for a den or pack. It could be held on a Saturday or other day, when allotted time will allow a flag ceremony, kite building time, a barbecue or lunch, and a kite flying time. Judging can be based on workmanship or kite flying skill.
Kites must be made by a boy and adult team. They can be diamond-shaped kites with or without tails, box kites, homemade kites, store-bought kites, etc. Another possibility is to provide kite kits which can be assembled and flown on the day of the event. Unlike some other derbies, adjustments can be made to the kites as needed, even as the event progresses.
- Wolf Elective Adventure ‘Air of the Wolf’ 3-4
TIPS & IDEAS
- Be sure that you choose a large area that will allow everyone to fly their kites without getting them tangled.
- Use this as a recruiting event for your pack or den, but be sure to publicize widely.
- Have each boy make a kite that represents their family.
- The Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 6-38 to 6-39
- “Kite Derby” (scouting.org)
- “Kite Derby”
PAPER AIRPLANE DERBY
Who doesn’t like to make and fly a paper airplane? Paper plane derbies are a fun and inexpensive way to have a derby. Scouts can work as individuals or teams to create the best paper plane possible. Paper airplanes can be thrown for distance, accuracy, or through/around obstacles (like a mini-golf setting). They can also be thrown through a hula hoop for points.
- Wolf Elective Adventure ‘Motor Away’ 1
TIPS & IDEAS
- Tie in to a recycling theme
- There are many paper airplane books. Some of them actually include detachable colored pages with fold lines.
- You can work in families or in pairs of Cub Scouts to increase social interaction and cooperative learning.
BOX CAR DERBY
This derby is a lot of fun for the cub scouts and their families. It consists of cub scouts creating a car out of a cardboard box using paper plates for “wheels” and other safe materials. Then you have the cub scouts “wear” the box over their shoulders for the race. The cubs do several laps with a “pit stop” at the end of each lap where they can “rotate tires” (take off their shoes, switch socks, and put shoes back on), or “re-fuel” (have the drivers drink a small cup of water), or “clean the windshields” (have the cubs wear shop goggles for the race and spray the goggle with water and wipe it dry), or any other idea you come up with for a pit stop. This derby can be held in a gymnasium or at a park or at a parking lot. After the pre-determined number of laps, give out awards for most creative design, most colorful car, etc. You can also have first, second, and third place, but give each boy an award and make it fun for everyone!
TIPS & IDEAS
- Pick cardboard boxes that fit the cub scouts, allowing them to pick it up completely and run with it without anything dragging on the ground.
- Don’t use any metal or glass on the box.
- Don’t use a windshield on the car. Instead you could use plastic shop goggles as “windshields”.
- Assemble the car with glue or tape in a manner so that it will be safe for the scout.
- Decorate the car with tape, aluminum foil, paper, paint, stickers, paper plates, construction paper, etc.
- Have at least two people as a pit stop crew for each Cub Scout. This could be parents, siblings, relatives, or friends.
- “CUB-anapolis 400”
- “Cubanapolis 500”
Marble derbies are a fun way to encourage creativity, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. A marble track is constructed or set up and boys take turns racing their marbles to the end. Most young boys love to watch their marble go down a track.
- Bear Elective Adventure ‘Marble Madness’ 7
TIPS & IDEAS
- Marble tracks can be constructed from various materials, including wood, paper plates, paper towel rolls, pool noodles, or plastic.
- Let the boys make their own track and be creative. This also provides a great opportunity to teach the boys teamwork.
- Let the boys bring their own marbles or provide unique ones for each boy.
- In addition to marble races, you can also teach the boys to play other games with marbles.
- “Paper Plate Marble Track”
- “Marble Derby Woodworking Plan”
- Marble Racetrack from Pool Noodles
ANYTHING CAN BE A DERBY!
The derbies listed here just scratch the surface on what you can do with derbies. You can select almost any requirement in the Scout book and make it a derby. The possibilities are endless. Here’s some more ideas you can try:
- Disability Awareness Derby (Webelos Elective Adventure ‘Aware & Care’): Get a wheelchair, a pair of crutches, blindfold, earplugs, etc. and make a series of challenges or relay races.
- First Aid Derby (Various requirements): Teams race to identify what to use and do for different first-aid scenarios.
- Whittling Derby (Bear Elective ‘Bear Claws’ 2): Boys whittle pieces of soap or wood that are displayed and judged.
Come up with ideas of your own!