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Space Derby – How to Win at a Fun Cub Scout Activity
Last Saturday, my 8-year-old son participated in his first Space Derby with his Cub Scout backpack. Boys, parents, siblings and Cub Scout leaders attended the event. What is an aerial derby? Well, it might be a little different than you thought.
Each Cub Scout receives a Space Derby bag through the Cub Scout bag. The kit contains balsa wood that each participant will use to create a rocket body. The bag also contains plastic material that can be cut into fins for the rocket. This is where it starts to look a little weird. There is also a propeller in the bag. Propeller?!! I thought this was a rocket? Yes, it’s supposed to be a rocket, but the propeller actually propels the rocket. Cub Scouts run four at a time. The rocket is suspended horizontally by a fishing line and the propeller is driven by rubber with the bag.
Rockets are judged in three categories; speed, beauty, and originality. It quickly becomes apparent that the first thing that makes a rocket go fast is its weight. Since all rockets have the same power and damage, the lighter your rocket the faster. However, if you lighten the rocket, the system may fail when the rubber is damaged. So there is a balance of having a light, yet strong missile to have speed.
My son and I decided to go for the beauty category since this was his first air derby. We want to know how the other rockets will do in terms of speed this time around. We followed the instructions on the kit and started to connect the two balsa wood pieces together. Later we used real sandpaper to start the shape of the rocket. Later I learned from some parents that the potato peeler works wonders for shaving wood off the body to get the shape of the rocket. If we didn’t have this information, we used sandpaper. Once we got the basic shape we wanted, we used finer sandpaper. We switched to 400 grit sandpaper, and finally 800 grit.
Then we wiped the rocket with primer. After the primer was completely dry, we sanded it with 800 grit sandpaper. Then we added another layer of primer and spread it again. We continued this process until the rocket body came to our satisfaction. A friend of mine said I should have used sanding primer. He said it only took one or two coats to fill the cracks in the balsa wood. I have to take his word for it. I used a regular paint primer…the easy stuff.
After we finished spraying and spraying, we sprinkled red apples on the body. When spray painting there are a few tips that will make a big difference in the look of your finished model. Spray paint in well-ventilated areas only. It is important that you keep the duct the correct distance from your model…about 6 inches is recommended. If you get too close to it, your paint job will fade into it; too far and your paint job will affect the orange peel (it will be dull and dull). Keep moving the can while spraying…again, too much time spent in one spot results in streaks and a poor paint job.
When you paint the rocket, you can make a lamp holder out of a clothes hanger. This prevents you from getting paint all over your hands and getting fingerprints on your new paint job. Make sure you have a safe place where you can place the end of your hanger, keeping your new paint from touching anything until it dries. Give your paint plenty of time to dry (30 minutes) before applying a second coat or (2 – 4 hours) before touching the rocket body, depending on humidity.
Once the first coat was dry, we applied a second coat of red apple sugar. We painted the fins and the propeller chrome after we built them. Since we didn’t have any decals to use, I used silver and black to make glitter on the mailing labels. I then cut out the lightning bolt and attached it to the body of the rocket. My husband used a black tip to add Captain Justin Rodgers to one of his tail fins.
Justin’s rocket won first place in the beauty category. It has done well in terms of speed, but we will definitely make lighter rockets next year. I hope you found this article useful tips for building your own winning air derby rocket.
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