Cool Pinewood Derby build from a father son team! Check it out over at Make.
John: My son is in Cub Scouts, and for years we’ve been building Pinewood Derby cars. It’s always … interesting to see how much involvement the scouts have, versus their parents, in making their cars. For the most part, I’ve let my son do what he wants: cut the car, sand it, paint it, and so on. But after watching one parent spend hours painstakingly cutting, sanding, and grinding his kid’s car, my son and I decided we’d kick it up a notch this year — his last year in Cub Scouts.
August: My dad and I had an idea that our last Pinewood Derby car should be really cool. My dad is a geek and really good with electronics so he did most of the coding. I did most of the design. I thought it was a lot of fun because I got to spend more time with my dad, and got to do a lot of things that I like. I couldn’t wait until the race to see how fast it was. It did not win a single race — but we did win the most unique car design. It was the best Cub Scout experience I’ve ever had.
John: Even though I have a pretty nice wood shop, I’m more of a programmer type (I’ve written 6 books on mobile development). I’d wanted to do something with Arduino, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so while at the same time providing me with a chance to teach my son how to wire things together, solder, and write code.
In this project, we’ll show you how to create a Pinewood Derby car that uses an Arduino compatible microcontroller board and an accelerometer to flash a set of LEDs in response to the orientation of the car. When the car sits flat in the pits, it flashes the lights in a certain pattern. When it’s at the starting gate and on the angled portion of the track, the light pattern changes and becomes much more active. Knowing that the car may jump off the track, we added special “danger” patterns when the car is tipped on its left or right side.
Since everything is done in code, it’s super easy to completely change the light patterns and orientation settings in the software. You and your kid can spend hours trying out different patterns to get the right, and potentially unique, ones for your car.
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