No Limits in Speed at GS Derby

Contributed by Jennifer Banks

The Girl Scouts, part of the San Jacinto Council, from the Island Creek Community held their third annual Island Creek Grand Prix Derby. Each year, the derby evolves and this third year was no exception. Let me give you a little backstory on our first derby.

I had always wanted to participate in a derby as a kid, but my Girl Scout community in Louisiana never had one. So, as a leader in the Girl Scout community where my daughter is enjoying scouting, I encouraged (maybe pestered) that group of people standing near a multicolored matchbox car trackI would love to have a derby. Thankfully, we had another ambitious leader who took on the planning of the derby in spectacular fashion for us, Sarah Langlais.  She had a community resource (Danny Wells) who was willing to help the girls in our community to build our very own track that we could keep and use for years to come.

So, we did just that! Girls and their families were invited over to Camp Danny (Danny’s garage) and learned how to use power tools, measure, sand, drill, and paint. In the end, we have a glorious track that is reliable and a treasure for our community. That first year we raced LEGO cars that the girls and their adult partner would build there at the day of the race. After each race, the teams can go back and make modifications to their cars to hopefully, increase their speed for the next heat. They got a chance to race their car three times.

The second year of the derby, we split it into two sessions, one for the younger girls and one for the older girls because our first year blew us out of the water with participation. That worked really well and made for some really fun competition.

This year, we decided we would bring in pinewood cars as well as continue with LEGO cars. It was a pleasure to hear from the girls the work they put into making their cars at home with their troops or adult partners. We had an impressive 42 cars race in the Pinewood derby and 58 cars racing in the Lego derby. Families got the opportunity to watch the races, cheer on their cars, have some snacks, and visit with other scouts.

In between the Pinewood Derby and the Lego derby, we took the opportunity to girl holding a matchbox carshowcase the Ewy Rosqvist video. Once we watched the video, we also watched the No Limits short film where girls are asked which toy they want to play with. It was interesting to watch the faces of the girls while the video was playing, they were enthralled with the kids on the screen and then ended up with a look of accomplishment on their faces for being at an event where we are breaking stereotype boundaries by having girls build and race their own pinewood and Lego cars. Looking at the moms and grandmothers in the room, I saw a few tears at the end of the videos. I would imagine the tears were a mixture of emotions that were pride, happiness for the positive changes they are seeing, and perhaps some sorrow for missed opportunities for themselves in the past. Then to look at the faces of the dads and grandpas, it was straight pride that they were encouraging their daughter and granddaughters to do something outside of the normal girl stereotype. Look at this picture of this young lady holding her derby car, her new matchbox car, and wearing a shirt that says “Plays with cars.” Coincidentally, her dad was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Still plays with cars”. 

Once the video was over, I had the older Girl Scout volunteers hand out the girl holding a matchbox carmatchbox cars. These girls, wearing the yellow shirts are part of the Golden Gears, a robotics team made up of 5 Girl Scouts competing in the First Tech Challenge (FTC) who have just recently advanced to the 2020 Worlds Competition in April. The profits from this event are being donated to this team of inspiring girls to be able to cover expenses for competing in Worlds. This group of five bright, intelligent, funny young ladies is competing against teams of 15-20 people, many of whom are male and they are definitely making their mark in the same fashion that Ewy Rosqvist did in 1962. They are inspiring girls to realize that there are no limits!

A huge thank you to the National Girls Collaborative Project, in partnership with Mercedes for the opportunity to learn about an inspiring pioneer, but also for the Matchbox replicas that girls can take home and play with for further inspiration.


Jennifer Banks is a Troop Leader for Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council in Houston, TX

NGCP's partnership with Mercedes-Benz USA is tackling the issue of gender stereotypes and showing young girls they can aspire to be and do anything they desire. #GirlsHaveNoLimits. Via NGCP mini-grants, thousands of girls have been gifted a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist's historic 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix performance. Learn more about this initiative.