Cognitive Tool Assignment – Pinewood Derby Data Collection EDIT

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					Cognitive Tool Assignment – Pinewood Derby Data Collection
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Darin Parker
September 18, 2007

As Coordinator for the Athens Sectional Royal Rangers Pinewood Derby and a Royal Ranger
Commander in my local church, I have been involved with Pinewood Derby racing for a number
of years. Each year the derby participants work to produce the fastest cars possible and each
year they look ahead to the next race, fully intending to apply the most recent lessons learned
to their next attempts at gravity powered racing. Each year, however, the best of intentions fail
to produce a true archive of historical data on which to base the cars of the future. In an effort
to help our racers learn and apply the lessons of racing history, we will attempt to develop a
cognitive tool (in this case a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet) that will help to determine which
characteristics (basic design/shape, weight, axel type, and wheel attachment method)
contribute to the fastest pinewood derby cars.

The goal of the project will be for the students to use quantifiable data to show which car
designs, weights, and axel/wheel attachment combinations produce the fastest cars. The
students may then use this data to help design future cars.

To begin the project, the students will create an excel spreadsheet to record the following data:

    1.   Car number
    2.   Basic design/shape (wedge, razor, etc.)
    3.   Weight (Royal Ranger rules specify a maximum weight of 5.5 oz.)
    4.   Axel type (wooden or metal)
    5.   Wheel attachment method (screw, braid or nail, snap to metal axel)
    6.    Time in 1st heat
    7.   Time in 2nd heat
    8.   Time in 3rd heat
    9.   Average time of a car entered in the race overall (average of all times for all cars)

After the spreadsheet is complete, the students will then record the characteristics of each car
entered in the Pinewood Derby race. The race times for each car (in each of three races or
heats) will also be recorded and the data will be entered into the spreadsheet.

It is at this time that the value of the cognitive tool will come into play. Before, individuals may
have recalled how well their car fared in a certain race or heat and possibly how well a
competitor’s car may have done (if the design was memorable this is more likely), but only on a
limited basis. The use of the cognitive tool (in this case the spreadsheet) affords all of the
participants the opportunity view a logical display of each car’s characteristics along with the
results of each car’s three heats and their overall average time. In this easy to view display, each
car, each design/shape, each weight, and each axel/wheel construction combination may be
compared along with the results achieved to show which characteristics combine to produce the
fastest cars.