If you go
What: Ford Girls’ Fast Track Derby Race
When: noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 30
Where: Kinard Knowledge Middle School, 3002 East Trilby Road, Fort Collins
About a dozen Boulder County girl scouts from Troop 3010 wore safety goggles and aprons on Thursday as they swung hammers and waited their turn for a Home Depot employee to take a band saw to a block of wood that would soon be a pinewood derby car.
“I’m building a cheese car,” said 10-year-old Ainsley Dye. “I studied cheese for a school project about two years ago, so I know a lot about cheese. I thought, why not have a car that goes fast and represents me?”
Dye and her fellow scouts are participating in the Ford Girls’ Fast Track Derby Race in Fort Collins on Sept. 30. Although the pinewood derby conjures images of father-son teams, the automobile company started the program in hopes it will encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) — fields that are historically underrepresented by women.
The Fort Collins event is one of seven taking place across the United States.
“I’m so excited at the fact that Ford is seeing this as a feeder program for female engineers,” Ainsley’s mother and Troop leader Julie Dye said. “The Girl Scouts is about empowering girls, and what better way to empower them than to put the tools in their hands?”
Bella Benson, 10, said she is designing her car to look like the beak on a bird, because “I like birds.”
“My dad is an engineer, so I’d like to take after him,” she said. “But I also like to write. I’ve already written a book.”
Don Parkes’ 8-year-old daughter, Katie, is in the troop, and while he is excited about the race, he says he will resist the pinewood derby stereotype of the dad who hijacks the project. He said the girls are coming to his house on Saturday to work on their cars.
Brownie Girl Scout Stella Wilkinson works on sanding down the wood on her pinewood derby car with the rest of Troop 3010 on Thursday. “These girls are sponges,” said Stella’s mother, Karen Wilkinson. “They are smart and they are ready to learn.” (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)
“As much as I’d like to get in there and turn some screws, I’m going to let her do as much as she possibly can,” he said “I’ll give her some suggestions, of course, but I want to see what she can do.”
Parkes said he is glad to see events that encourage girls to get involved in STEM-related activities, saying that it’s long overdue and he wants to see more such activities.
“She has always been equally interested in Legos and bugs as she has been in princesses — probably more so in Legos and bugs,” he said. “It’s a bit early for her to be thinking about a career, but we want to keep the door open for any interest she might have.”
Home Depot provided tools and supervision for the project on Thursday, and store manager Nabil Karkamaz said that the store hosts projects for kids on the first Saturday of every month, which generally draws 80 to 100 kids.
“Every month, we have something different,” Karkamaz said. “This is one of our core values: to give back to the community.”
Karen Wilkinson’s 8-year-old daughter, Stella, was working on a car on Thursday, and Wilkinson said she thinks the project is great because little girls are often pushed into activities that are considered “feminine or girly.”
“These girls are sponges,” Wilkinson said. “They are smart and they are ready to learn. We don’t want to put them into boxes and let them excel at what they are good at.”
Julie Dye said the program will help the girls academically, but it’s also something they are excited to do, and the troop appeared to be enjoying the their work on Thursday.
“Quite frankly, little girls want to play with tools,” she said. “And real tools, not little toy ones. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.”
John Bear: 303-473-1355, email@example.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme