CRANFORD – The Girl Scouts of Cranford (Service Unit 48) hosted nearly 200 Girl Scouts of all ages at its 7th Annual Pinewood Derby.

Senior Troop 40444 of Cranford High School organized the day of races held on Saturday, February 8 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 Grand Champion winners were:

  • 4th place: Meghan Reilly
  • 3rd place: Abby Folvik
  • 2nd place: Audrey Gannon
  • 1st place: Lila Schau

In addition to speed, there were awards for other specialized categories. Those 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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Keira Nester and Emmeline Marchesi are fourth grade students at Orange Avenue School. Nester won an award won for most bling and Marchesi won for most detailed, but racing was their favorite part of the day. “It was really suspenseful when we raced against each other. She was a tenth of a second faster than me,” explained Keira. “I probably needed more graphite to cut down on the friction.” Working off that theory, Emmeline said she learned about engineering principles by working on her first derby car with her Dad. “It’s good to have a curve, so then the air travels over it.”

According to the release, the Pinewood Derby concept was introduced to the Cranford Girl Scout community seven years ago as a way to get girls excited about STEM for younger 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. Senior 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 embrace the challenge. It’s a fun event, but it also teaches them a lot about things like pre-planning, trial and error, building skills, artistic expression, and so much more,” said Ms. Esteves. “It has also taught the girls in our troop about leadership, organization, team work, responsibility, and planning. We are very proud of the young women they are growing into, and Girl Scouts has been a huge part of that.”

During Heat 9, the Girl Scouts of Junior Troop 40665 from Brookside Place School waited eagerly for their cars to race. Fifth grader Josie McSweeney said her favorite part was watching her car speed past while Abby Folvik, an eventual Grand Champion, said painting her car with a Cranford theme was a highlight. Izabella Lukenda said speed was the goal for her pineapple themed car. “I want to win. I’ve never won before.”

Senior Troop 40444 was also supported by several other troops. Brownie Troop 40193 hosted a Girl Scout Build A Car event for the second year. On January 11, Girl Scouts gathered at the First Presbyterian Church of Cranford to share tools and work on their cars in a collaborative setting. Junior Troop 40688, which includes Ms. Esteves younger daughter, also assisted with the event. “The derby has taught us a lot about engineering and art, but also about teamwork,” explained Kerri Esteves, a fifth grader from Hillside Avenue School.

There was a philanthropic element to the Derby as well. Senior Troop 40444 donated the proceeds from the Derby bake sale to Maeve Boger-O’Bryan, who is also known as Gluca Girl. Maeve was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes two years ago when she was 12. Her dream is to have a diabetic alert dog to help manage the highs and lows. Gluca Girl was developed as a way to raise funds to purchase a service dog.

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 www.cranfordgirlscouts.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you to Kerri Rokicki for passing along the photos and information.