First time PWD Chair

Debates and discussions on the various race scheduling methods that can be used and their fairness and accuracy in determining the winners.
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dfscott
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First time PWD Chair

Post by dfscott » Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:32 pm

Hi all. So glad to find this forum - I've already learned a ton! However, the Cubmaster has appointed me as chair for our PWD next month and I'm trying to figure out a few things.

Some quick background: we're a new pack as of Fall of last year. We threw together a Pinewood Derby earlier this year, and it was a chaotic affair. We did random, single-elimination by den, and then had the den winners race for finals. As I'm sure you would expect, there were tears and grumbling by the older boys that slower cars got to go to district. To make matters even worse, we have an old, 2-lane track, with one obviously slower lane (we did have an electronic finish, but no timer). We ran best out of 3 races, so when the cars were close, whoever won the coinflip won the race. We are a small pack (only about 30 total), so it was mercifully short, but still not a great experience. :(

So, I've been tasked with "fixing things." I'd love to buy a new track, but with our current finances, we can't make that work right now (I'm definitely going to try to for next year!). So, I'm looking at a perfect-N method, using either spreadsheets or (if I can get the PC to approve it) GPRM. However, I'm concerned about selling the anti-climatic nature of the non-elimination format to the other adult leaders and parents. When I used the spreadsheet to simulate a race, it's just car A vs car B over and over and then "ta-da!" here are the winnners, and it's a little hard for observers to understand how it works (maybe it's better with GPRM, but it was hard to tell with the demo having a limit of 5 entries).

Now, our pack has grown a bit this year (we're up to about 40) and have between 7 and 11 scouts in each Den (we only have one Web 2, so we're lumping him in with the Web 1's). I was thinking of going with a Den-by-den format, awarding 1-2-3 of each den, then grabbing the top 3 of each den and racing them off in a combined DE to determine the top 4 to go to district. After reading some other things here, I see several comments that instead of DE, another Perfect-N would be a better way to go, but again I'm worried about the lack of any "championship race." Maybe it's my old school sports background that makes me think there needs to be a mano-y-mano fight to the finish. :thinking:

The other option I was considering is lumping the entire pack together into one giant schedule. Everyone would race each other and I'll determine den winners based on total score, but I was worried that a) there would be too much time between a given scout's races and b) an unlucky draw could have a Tiger matched up against older scouts every time. This also has the problem of making it even harder for observers to figure out where they stand.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions/feedback!



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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by gpraceman » Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:48 pm

You can run a two round format. The first round, give everyone as many runs down each lane of the track as time permits and then advance the top N racers to a finals round (advance at least twice the number of racers as you have trophies). You at least get down to the fastest cars running for the trophies but give everyone a good deal of racing. See http://grandprix-software-central.com/g ... format.php for more info on this format.

If you are scoring by points, I would suggest that your ranks be the race groups. If scoring by times, you have the option of lumping everyone together and using subgroups for your ranks.

On the unequal lanes, I would do what you can to try to address that. It might take a lot of patching, sanding and refinishing, but it is worth the effort to get them as close running as you can.


Randy Lisano
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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by dfscott » Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:06 pm

gpraceman wrote: See http://grandprix-software-central.com/g ... format.php for more info on this format.
Thanks for this. I missed this when perusing the site before. I will be scoring by points, so it sounds like I'd race my Bears separately from the Wolves, for example. But looking at that trophy round chart, I'm still confused. For example, I've got 9 racers in my Tiger den and want to give out 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Are you saying that I would race them down to 6 or 7 finalists first since that's what's in the 3 trophies row? If so, I don't understand the "Lanes To Use" column. I only have 2 lanes on my track, so I don't get the 3, 4, 6 or 7 bit.
gpraceman wrote: On the unequal lanes, I would do what you can to try to address that. It might take a lot of patching, sanding and refinishing, but it is worth the effort to get them as close running as you can.
Good point. It's patched with duck tape right now, but I have until the end of January. One of my Cub's dad is a cabinet maker so maybe I can recruit some woodworking help to improve things a bit.



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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by Stan Pope » Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:16 pm

There are a lot of packs and a lot of tracks nearby. Since you are a new pack, I bet you could get at least one of those pack's leaders to assist with your PWD this year and probalby next. That is, bring a modern track (3 or 4 lanes) with electronics and help you run the race. To contact one of them, your district executive (call the local scout office) or the district activities committee chairman should be able to give you some names and phone numbers to try. The easier way is to stand up during Cub Scout Leaders Roundtable meeting and ask for help!

This gives your pack a year or so grace to fund its program, and a nice 3 or 4 lane track is the way to go. There are two track profiles to choose from. The profile used by MicroWizard (was Piantedosi) is much like the profile in the Cub Scout Leader's HOW TO Book. The curve is gentle and track lengths from 32' (as in the HOW TO Book) up to 48' are available. The profile used by Best has a short, small radius curved section where the ramp meets the flat. This is a faster track, but demands more precision from the cars. Start to finish lengths are different for the two styles. A 42' Best track has about 35' start to finish, (Best includes the braking section in the length spec.) and a 40' MicroWizard track has about 36' start to finish.

An intermediate step is to buy a fair-to-good condition track from a pack that is upgrading. This may or may not work for you.


Stan
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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by gpraceman » Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:23 pm

dfscott wrote:If so, I don't understand the "Lanes To Use" column. I only have 2 lanes on my track, so I don't get the 3, 4, 6 or 7 bit.
There is no perfect scenario for two lanes and 3 trophies to yield a PN or CPN chart. The best you could get is a PPN chart. So, I would go with the general rule of thumb of advancing at least twice the number of racers as you have trophies, using a PPN chart.
gpraceman wrote:Good point. It's patched with duck tape right now, but I have until the end of January. One of my Cub's dad is a cabinet maker so maybe I can recruit some woodworking help to improve things a bit.
Well, maybe he'd be willing to go as far as building a new track (3 or 4 lane). You might be able to get materials donated. It never hurts to ask local companies if they'd be willing to chip in materials.


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by dfscott » Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:31 pm

Stan Pope wrote:That is, bring a modern track (3 or 4 lanes) with electronics and help you run the race. To contact one of them, your district executive (call the local scout office) or the district activities committee chairman should be able to give you some names and phone numbers to try. The easier way is to stand up during Cub Scout Leaders Roundtable meeting and ask for help!
Actually, that's what we did and it's how we ended up with our current track. I guess beggars can't be choosers!
gpraceman wrote:Well, maybe he'd be willing to go as far as building a new track (3 or 4 lane). You might be able to get materials donated. It never hurts to ask local companies if they'd be willing to chip in materials.
Yep, I've been thinking about doing that as well (looking at these plans, but I'm worried that my limited woodworking skills might not be able to complete it in time. But maybe I can draft a helper. I also need to check our current timer and make sure it's expandable to 4 lanes from it's current 2.



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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by gpraceman » Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:43 pm

dfscott wrote:Yep, I've been thinking about doing that as well (looking at these plans, but I'm worried that my limited woodworking skills might not be able to complete it in time. But maybe I can draft a helper. I also need to check our current timer and make sure it's expandable to 4 lanes from it's current 2.
Those are a good set of plans. Maybe that cabinet maker dad would be willing to do the building, if you line up the materials for him and maybe assist.

As far as timing system goes, if you need a new one, there are some budget options. You can find these listed at http://grandprix-race-central.com/modul ... page&pid=5.


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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2-lane beat-up wooden turns into 4-lane alumninum!

Post by dfscott » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:23 pm

Hurray! I just heard from a local pack that is willing to let us borrow their 40', 4-lane, aluminum track! That's the good news! The bad news is that there are apparently some issues with the timer, but they say it works "most of the time", which concerns me a bit! I know it's next to impossible to accurately rank 1st through 4th without an electronic finish gate of some sort, so are there any alternatives that work well?

I guess as a last resort, I could buy a 4-lane timer (since we plan to upgrade to our own 4-lane track soon), but aren't there different sizes? I'd hate to buy one that fits their track and then doesn't fit whatever track we end up getting.



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Re: 2-lane beat-up wooden turns into 4-lane alumninum!

Post by gpraceman » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:40 pm

dfscott wrote:The bad news is that there are apparently some issues with the timer, but they say it works "most of the time", which concerns me a bit! I know it's next to impossible to accurately rank 1st through 4th without an electronic finish gate of some sort, so are there any alternatives that work well?
Try to find out who the manufacturer is and you can maybe work with them to resolve any issue. You can also post the issue here and members may be able to steer you to a solution.
dfscott wrote:I guess as a last resort, I could buy a 4-lane timer (since we plan to upgrade to our own 4-lane track soon), but aren't there different sizes? I'd hate to buy one that fits their track and then doesn't fit whatever track we end up getting.
Lane spacing and overall track width are the issues. Most tracks are 3.5" on center, but there can be other lane spacings, especially on a DIY track. If your track is not 3.5" on center, you can look at buying a timer that will work for you when you do go to buy a new track. Micro Wizard has their 4 lane K1 Cheap Kit with computer interface that you can build to whatever lane spacing (just rework the sensor mounting, if needed for the new track) or there is the new Turbo Lite timer from NewBold Products that doesn't have a set lane spacing.


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: First time PWD Chair

Post by pack529holycross » Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:26 pm

I would say that you don't really have to "sell" the concept of a specific type of scoring system to the leaders. Once you begin using GPRM, any concerns regarding the scoring system will be secondary to how much smoother your event will go. A few recommendations:

Take your entire pack roster and pre-load it into GPRM, using Dens as the "Race Divisions" - for race car numbers use 101, 102, 103 etc for Tigers; 201, 202, 203 etc for Wolves and so on. Usually you can lump all the webelos together into one race division unless you have a ton of them. You can then create separate number groups for Siblings and Adults the same way. The advantages to doing this is that when you have all the cars in your "pits" and labelled with the Car numbers, you will be able to more easily stage up wolf cars for example, knowing that there should not be a 100's labelled car in that group. Use 1/2" square white stickers or labels ( or smaller ) to affix the race number onto the car. Do this AFTER the weighin, so each car is weighed without the sticker.

The reason for preloading is that in the software, the software is going to allow you to print out "checkin" sheets and rosters... all that is needed is to cross reference who showed up and is "race ready" by completing the check in process.. those that do not show up are simply excluded from the race schedule that is generated once you check off which cars are "race ready". This is FAR EASIER than trying to add names on the fly, because you are already going to have to do that for the siblings. ( trying to get pre-registration data on the siblings and parents further reduces raceday headaches ).

We use a "checkin slip" that is blank, with spaces to write in the racers name, car number, rank, and check off spots for each station - registration, dimensions, materials, weighin. The slip stays with each car throughout the process, and when all cars are grouped in the "pits" we pit the slips under each cars... then they collect the slips, bring them to the scoring table so the master roster can be audited against the "race ready" slips from race day.

GPRM has the ability to integrate with the Derby DMV software, which will let you print "drivers licenses" for the drivers, even if you dont take their pictures, and this extra "takehome" item adds to the fun and value of the event for the kids.

Here is the reason you want to use GPRM, above all else stated - once the roster is created, and the "race ready" cars are checked off... you push "generate schedule", and the heavy lifting is done for you automatically - guys much smarter than I have perfected the schedule generation software to the best of their brainiac abilities, and I can safely tell the crowd " this software is used to insure that these races are as fair as humanly possible ". Being able to say that with confidence is very important, and not having to explain Perfect-N, or race lane and opponent diversity logorythms, or any of the deep math that goes into that part of racing large groups of cars on a multi lane track, will allow you to keep your sanity for many years to come.

The other things you can stress in your "presentation" to the pwers that be would be that the length of the event becomes very predictable when doing rotational racing with a multi lane track, because the number of races or heats is equal to the number of cars - 60 cars run once down each lane is 60 races, or at a 60 second turnaround between heats, 60 minutes of racing. doing the top 4 cars x 4 ranks ( webelos combined ) is an additional 16 races / 16 minutes if you do a "pack champion series".

Two ways to offset expenses in a general way are to - prepurchase the PWD blocks from a vendor that can precision drill the blocks all to identical standards ( insuring that no scouts start with an "inferior" block ), buy the wheel sets from the Scout Shop, then sell the combined items with $1-3 markup. You disclose that by buying the kits "internally" from the pack helps to cover the cost of the expenses of the venue as well as trophies. With a 60-70 scout pack, you could easily generate expense reductions of $200-$300. If you have a Dad with a good drill press, you can buy the blocks for as little As $1.45 undrilled to save even more money. The other way is to sell hotdogs, chips, and sodas at the event both to offset expenses as well as keep the kids from getting crabby towards the end of the event.

RULES - you want to call your Council PWD coordinator as well as your District PWD coordinator to see if the same rules are being used at both levels. If they are NOT, you need to know where the differences are, and how to best assist your Pack PWD participants to be compliant with each unique set of rules. Fortunately our Council and District rules are identical, since I sit oon both committees. The benefit for the Council and Districts to ALL be on the same page with RULES is because the cars can be compliant throughout the "derby racing season" - Pack, District, Council.

Here is our Derby Event Guide for this year, from which we have "borrowed" content from many different sources, and anyone is certainly welcome to use any or all they find to be helpful for their event:
Image
http://seminoletrails.com/district/wp-c ... 282010.pdf

On the cover you can also see the certificates that GPRM automatically can generate for you on the fly, to insure that everyone gets recognized right at the event.

I am sure there are more tips available here on the Forum.. that was the top few I thought of as I read your post.

Nicholas



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