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  • Statler College students utilize Lane Innovation Hub for inaugural Pinewood Derby competition

Statler College students utilize Lane Innovation Hub for inaugural Pinewood Derby competition

Student working on her car for the pine wood derby contest.

More than 60 cars designed by students will race in the Statler College's inaugural Pinewood Derby.

As part of Engineers Week 2023, the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will host its first Pinewood Derby contest in partnership with Boy Scouts of America and the Lane Innovation Hub

Story/Photos by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist


More than 125 Statler College students comprised of 26 teams and 34 individuals will participate in the race that will take place on February 24, from 1-3 p.m., in the Engineering Sciences Building.  

The Pinewood Derby is one of the most popular events hosted by Boy Scouts of America. The premise of the contest is to build a wooden race car out of a pre-determined kit that typically includes a wooden block, plastic wheels and metal axles. Teams are free to make modifications to the design of their car to make them more aerodynamic as it races down a pre-made track that will be provided by Cub Scout Pack 64 of Morgantown. Regardless of the design, the goal is clear — get your car across the finish line the fastest. 

In celebration of this inaugural event, the Lane Innovation Hub provided Statler College students with official race kits and hosted a series of training sessions to help students perfect their entries in the Rapid Prototyping Lab, West Virginia University's first prototyping center on campus.  

“The Lane Innovation Hub provides two important resources for students,” said Dustin Spayde, director of the Lane Innovation Hub. “Our Maker Space provides training on a large variety of equipment that students can access for free, thanks to the support of the Statler College Dean’s Office. Alternatively, our professionally staffed Service Center, where our staff is available to manufacture designs from across the university and the state of West Virginia. Both resources are available to students for university related projects or private projects, including entrepreneurial endeavors.”

For Daniel Givler, a mechanical engineering major from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, the Lane Innovation Hub provided him with the right tools to fine tune his car and maximize its speed.   

“I wanted to make my car as aerodynamic as possible by making it smooth and distributing the weight so that it would have the most energy going down the ramp,” explained Givler. “The Lane Innovation Hub provided me with a nice place to work and gave me access to tools like a vibrating belt sander, vertical band saw and drill that I was able to use to shape my car.”  

EB Gruchacz, a chemical engineering major from Oak Ridge, New Jersey, is part of an all-female team that signed up for the trainings and utilized the tools at the Lane Innovation Hub for their entry.  

“The Lane Innovation Hub is very open to everyone, even for things as simple as drilling holes. They offer training on all the materials and if you forget they provide a packet to look at that tells you how to work the machines,” said Gruchacz. “Some machines we learned to use during the training were saws, drills, and sanders. Personally, I enjoyed using the sander.”  

Gruchacz and her team decided to use a teardrop shape for their derby design that involves more rounded and less sharp sides to make their car more aerodynamic.  

“What I think is unique is that we are also thinking about ways to make the wheel spin faster by sanding the nails slightly and adding graphite powder,” said Gruchacz. “On top of that, you need to take weight into consideration, and when adding weight where the best placement will be. In truth, I hope our team wins but there are many more designs that can win as well.”  

For Clara Johnson, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Sterling, Virginia, her focus was on reducing the drag of her car.  

“My engineering course work has taught me about aerodynamics, the importance of mass when it comes to potential and kinetic energy and the effects of friction on moving objects,” said Johnson. “My design was built to reduce as much drag as possible while allowing me to redistribute weight on the car to increase potential and kinetic energy. I think my design will win because of its aerodynamic shape and the theory I used to create the design.”  

Having used the Lane Innovation Hub in the past to complete projects for a manufacturing class, Johnson knew that she could use the equipment there to improve her design.  

“The Lane Innovation Hub has a bunch of equipment that is available for use,” said Johnson. “I used the innovation hub to cut and sand the body of the car, and sand down the axles to reduce as much drag as possible.”  

As a student worker in the Lane Innovation Hub, Givler is also no stranger to the immense resources the maker space provides him and all students at the Statler College. 

“I have worked on countless projects in the Hub,” said Givler. “By allowing students to come in and train on the tools we have available it opens the door to countless opportunities and projects to excel themselves and their coursework.”  

“All Lane Innovation Hub trainings are hands-on and hosting themed training workshops is a great way to get students introduced to the Hub in a way that is immediately relevant to them,” said Spayde. “The pine wood derby training workshops were a perfect example of this. Once a student begins using the space, they become more aware of all the options and equipment available to them for future endeavors.”

Students will put their designs to the test during the elimination style tournament that will begin on Friday, February 24, at 1 p.m. in room G114/atrium ESB.  

Following the race, an awards ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in room G102 ESB. Winners of the competition will receive a laser engraved trophy made in the Lane Innovation Hub to commemorate the inaugural event.  

The Lane Innovation Hub is available to everyone at WVU. Walk ins are welcome at the Hub’s Rapid Prototyping Lab in room G85 ESB and Electronics Prototyping Lab in room G75E ESB. For more information, email



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135