Center of Mass

Setting the center of mass using a putty knife.

The center of mass is perhaps the most overlooked -- and the most important -- aspect of any pinewood derby race car. In this section, we examine this aspect of a car from every angle, and introduce the viewers to the concept of a computer model, using Lagrangian Mechanics (don’t worry--it’s at a level that boys will understand!) We show you how you can perform a trivial experiment at home to illustrate how scientists calculate the center of mass. We also look at different types of energy important for any pinewood derby race car.
A introductory illustration of the importance of the location of the center of mass.
An experiment about calculating the center of mass.
Using computer simulations to test hypotheses.
A plot of results showing run time versus the center of mass.