By Michelle Carpenter
May 06, 2017

3D Printing: A New Take on an Old Derby Tradition


The moment is epic and traditional—wooden, carefully painted cars glide down the track, the hopes of a young boy mounted on fast rolling wheels.  

But, traditions change, and it’s okay.  

With developing technology, shaping a car from wood is simply not the only option.

Before everyone gets mad and screams at me because I’m veering from tradition, consider why 3D printing may be a fun (but not the only) way to approach derby making.

Here’re some things to consider if your son proceeds with this idea:

Can he do it?

The title of the race insinuates that you use wooden cars. As a Facebook user pointed out, it’s not the “plastic derby”.  It’s got to be against the rules then, right?

It depends. First, districts and packs create their own rules. On our council website, the rules state that you can use alternatives for the body of the car as long as weight and height requirements are met. Some ask that you use the full kit, however. 

Even then, my husband, a 3D printing expert and teacher, pointed out a boy could turn the wood to sawdust and create his own filament to print. Now, that is genius (and yes, you can print in wood).

Why should he do it?

It’s fun!  More importantly, it’s a useful skill to learn. A boy will understand engineering principles, how to 3D Model, and how to do computer simulations.

Also, the car’s going to be better if it’s 3D printed. According to my husband, a printed car will be more aerodynamic. Additionally, because plastic is harder, it’s less likely for the wheels to be out of alignment.

You may think this is too hard for a young Cub Scout. However, my husband teaches elementary kids all the time to 3D print, and they master it. 

 How does he do it?

Many schools and libraries offer 3D printers to use. There are also kid-friendly Makerspaces available throughout Utah.

Your boy can use an online open source program for free. My husband recommends OnShape and TinkerCad for children. Classes are available through various after-school programs. He can also watch a video on Youtube to learn more basics.

After he masters the derby car project, he can move on to more exciting things (like a life-size car–it’s a real thing). 

This upcoming week my husband is hosting a “Pinewood Derby” that’s anything but traditional. The boys will be older than Cubs (7th-12th grade). The event will be cohosted by Utah County 4-H. And, to top it off, everyone is 3D printing their cars. 

But, breaking tradition can be a good thing. 

The moment will be epic– advanced computer engineered cars glide down the track, the hopes of teen boys mounted on fast rolling wheels.  



Author: Michelle Carpenter | Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council

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