CRANFORD – The Girl Scouts of Cranford (Service Unit 48) hosted nearly 250 Girl Scouts of all ages at its 6th Annual Pinewood Derby. Cadette

Troop 40444 of Hillside Avenue School organized the day of races help on Saturday, January 26 at the Cranford United Methodist Church. Girls of all ages used their engineering skills and creativity to turn blocks of pine wood into miniature cars which were then raced in heats on a specialized track. There was plenty of competitive spirit and the four fastest finishers were:

  • 4th place: Jolie Marler
  • 3rd place: Madeline Minchak
  • 2nd place: Lila Schau
  • 1st place: Charlotte DiPaolo

In addition to speed, awards were bestowed for other standout features. Categories included most humorous, most detailed, most bling, best engineered car, best wedge car, best use of glitter, most original, best movie and TV themed car, best sports car, and best in show. 

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Asked about her Pinewood Derby experience, six-year old Karen referenced some science principles. “I learned that when you put something heavier on top, it goes faster,” she said of her cheetah themed car. “They are my favorite animal.” Karen, a Girl Scout Daisy from Troop #40079, was rewarded for her efforts with a first place time in her heat and an award for Best in Show for her round of competition.

Leah, a second-grade Girl Scout Brownie from Troop #40794, said, “I like getting trophies, but I learned it doesn’t matter if you win or lose if you have fun.” Leah worked on her car with her Dad. “We talk about how I want the car to look, how to paint it and how to make it speed.” Last year Leah was awarded the Best Use of Glitter recognition and her entry for 2019 boasted a blue unicorn theme.  

The Pinewood Derby concept was introduced to the Cranford Girl Scout community six years ago as a way to highlight STEM learning for young girls. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.  Cadette Troop 40444 leaders Erin Esteves and Stephanie Patterson were instrumental in launching the program and are very proud of their troop members for all their hard work and how the program has grown since its inception.

"It’s been so exciting to watch how the girls, their families and the many troops have embraced the challenge. It’s a fun event, but it also teaches them so much about things like pre-planning, trial and error, building skills, artistic expression and so much more,” said Ms. Esteves. “We also so feel so fortunate for the support of the other leaders too.”

For instance, this year Brownie Troop 40193 hosted a Girl Scout Build A Car event. On January 12 Girl Scouts gathered at the First Presbyterian Church of Cranford to share tools and work on their cars in a collaborative setting.

There was also a philanthropic element to the Derby. Cadette Troop 40444 collected canned goods to benefit Cranford Family Cares, a non-profit organization that provides temporary assistance to individuals and families in Cranford, NJ. Proceeds from the Derby bake sale were also donated to the organization.

The Girl Scouts of Cranford boasts over 1,139 Girl Scout Members in 71 troops and Juliette’s making it one of the largest non-profit organizations in town. The Cranford Service Unit is a part of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) Council which is part of the Girl Scouts of the USA. If your family is interested in learning more about local Girl Scouts or to find out more information on the Girls Scouts of Cranford, please visit