The quickest way to describe Nerdy Derby is a “Pinewood Derby on Steroids!” Pinewood Derby is an event where the Cub Scouts build and race cars made of wood, plastic, and metal down a wooden ramp. Nerdy Derby takes that a step further by introducing an undulating track instead of the usual gentle slope and then they eliminate all the rules!
The following describes the experience of a volunteer from last year’s event:
I volunteered to help run the Nerdy Derby at the Milwaukee MakerFest held at the Milwaukee Makerspace last year (2013) and the organizers of this year’s Maker Faire Milwaukee event asked me to describe the experience. I struggled to come up with a way to describe what it is like working with hundreds of kids to build crazy out-of-this-world cars out of wooden forms, plastic wheels and mountains of bling. Words like chaotic, frantic and insane jump to mind, but so do energizing, fulfilling and fun. Seeing the next generation of makers transform a simple block of wood and a handful of tires into a one-of-a-kind creation of their own imagination was inspiring.
For many of the kids this was their first chance to build something on their own, and seeing them work through the challenges of getting tires attached to their cars was very satisfying. For the kids, decorating their car was as important as building it, and many of them spent hours tricking out their cars with markers, stickers, feather, beads and the bane of my existence, glitter. While technically a race, most kids just reveled in the fact that something they built could speed down the track. A large number of the cars failed to make it down and instead flew off the track midway to explode in a pile of bits on the ground. Instead of being frustrated, the kids picked up their creations and ran back to the construction tables to adjust their designs for the next run.
I look forward to seeing the Nerdy Derby make a return this year and plan on swinging by to build a car of my own.
We’re happy to announce that the Nerdy Derby will be back this year! Watch the schedule for time and location updates.
While you wait, you can check out some track construction pictures from Frankie Flood, who was nice enough to build it for us.
Also, here‘s a video from the first ever Nerdy Derby held in Milwaukee in 2012.