Last Sunday, about 15 cub scouts got together with their parents at Conant Hall in Pound Ridge for their first annual Space Derby. With the help of their fathers, the 6 to 10 year olds assembled propeller driven wooden models that glided along a 30 foot long horizontal string. A four rocket race, set up on parallel strings, the fastest finish usually went to the model with the most efficient construction and just the right amount of tension between the propeller and the rubber band. But on this day there really were no winner or losers.
Being the first year that the troop has done the derby, scouts and their pack leaders wanted the initially foray into this competition to offer the chance to learn the ins and outs of the somewhat sophisticated toy before engaging in a real competition. “This year we’re just going to have fun,” said Scout Leader Doug Baum, and “we’re” definitely included the dads,” according to Mr. Baum’s wife Heather.
“That’s my big kid up there,” said Ms. Baum of all the fun he seemed to be having in running the rocket races. As for putting the all pieces together so the ship was ready by Sunday, she said, “I supervised.” More importantly, in that capacity, she observed that the experience gave her son the chance to see how a set of instructions and a kit full of parts could turn into the projectile that is found on the cover of the box.
Design aside, the event provided the opportunity for children and parents to bond, “and that’s what the scouts are all about,” she said. For Dads like Peter Munsch, who thinks baseball provides a pretty good chance to bond, the Space Derby’s scheduling conflict with the Yankees didn’t cause a problem. “That’s what the DVR is for,” he said, and even though his son’s ship didn’t do so well, the weekend was not slowed. “He lost, but he’s with his friends and is having a good time,” said Mr. Munsch.
Virginia Seremet, another mom among the majority of men and boys, saw above the bonding and aerodynamics to point out what the scouts have done for her son. “Just watching him develop over the last year,” she says has given him a respect for authority and a little more direction. Plus, the Space Derby – it’s better time spent than watching TV or playing X-Box, she added.
Two activities, taking up enough time in their lives that don’t offer much in terms of real life lessons. In running the rockets, the scouts and their leaders found a flaw in the instructions that prevented some of the rockets from reaching the finish line. After tweaking the propulsion system, they realized, “The instructions aren’t always right,” said Scout Master Jim Evans, and you’ve got to give it a try first – learning things the hard way.
9 Year old Luke Vancraeynest found exactly that as his rocket sputtered across the finish line. “Next year,” he said, “me and my Dad are going to be a bit more careful and think about the design before we put it together.”
And if the race doesn’t turn in a blue ribbon for him next year, hopefully this years’ experience shows him the importance of trying. Sometimes kids get upset when they lose, but the competitions now prepare them for harder tests later on, concluded Mr. Evans.
Rich Monetti coverage of event with Doug Baum, Heather Baum, Peter Munsch, Virginia Seremet, Jim Evans and Luke Vancraeynest