Simple Design is Usually Best

You can design things for a variety of reasons. You might want to create something to be the tallest or the widest or the most efficient of its kind. But unless you’re specifically trying to design complexity, the simplest and most straightforward design is often the best. My son demonstrated this recently in his design of a Pinewood Derby car for his AWANA group.

He started by determining the purpose of his car. Awards are given for the fastest car as well as the most creative. Because we were a little short on time this year he decided that he wouldn’t be able to put the level of commitment in to win thecreativity award. Speed became the only consideration in the build at that point.

The classic Pinewood Derby car shape is the wedge. There are endless variations of the wedge shape but basically you’re just cutting off half of your pine block at an angle from the bottom front to the top rear. We made a further weight reduction by removing a portion of the block on the bottom rear. At this point we added lead fishing weights to the bottom of the car by drilling holes and gluing them inside about an inch in front of the rear axles. The weels were installed with a slight cant so only the outside edges would be in contact with the track to reduce friction. Finally, one of the front wheels was installed high so it wouldn’t contact the track at all.

Our purpose was speed and our design reflected that by taking the most direct route.  The simplicity of the design allowed for a fast prototype and build and at the end of the night, resulted in a first place win.

The winning car

 

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