How Does A Race Work?
How Do I Display The Scoreboard On TV?
How Accurate Is The Timing Function?
What About Y2K Compliance?
Can The Software Run Double Elimination Races?
Will The Software Work On Two/Three/Six Lanes?
What Hardware Is Required?
What Hardware Is Provided?
What Type Of Sensors Do I Need To Use?
How Do I Connect The Lane Sensors To The Computer?
How Much Does The Software Cost?
How Much Does The Hardware Cost?
How Do I Obtain A Copy Of The Software?
Can I Test The Software Without Lane Sensors?
Can I Clear The Times From The Data Base Without Reregistering Racers?
How Do I Configure The Race Manager for My Pack's Unique Den Names?
How Do Scouts Register For The Race?
How Do We Start The Race?
How does the software handle the case where not all racers make it to the finish line?
How Do I Find Who The Winners Are?
We Raced A Scout Out Of Order And Now His Times Are Wrong. What Now?
Once In A While During A Race All Lane Times Are Exactly The Same?
What Is All The Stuff On The Sensor Diagnostics Screen?
Some Lane Sensors Show "TRUE" All The Time.
What Is Error 271?
After An Error I Have To Re-install The Software.
Why Don't You Return My Telephone Calls?
The Pinwood Derby Race Manager is total race management software designed for use with a four lane Pinewood Derby track. Lane finish sensors and a start sensor are connected to the parallel port of a personal computer. Each race participant is registered into the Race Manager data base. The Race Manager displays each participant's name when it is their turn to race, times each race, and records the heat results into the data base. Each racer runs one heat on all four lanes of the track for a total of four races. When the Pinewood Derby is complete, the Race Manager adds the times of all four heats for each participant. The shortest total time wins! The Pinewood Derby Race Manager software can display the results in order of finish for the entire pack. In addition, winners can be displayed by rank and den. The final results of the Pinwood Derby can be printed out for archival purposes. An open class is included so that siblings/moms/dads can participate as well if you so choose.
Typically, race registration opens on race day about an hour before the race is scheduled to start. Each participant must report to the registration table to register. A race official records each scouts Name, Rank, and Den Number (Name) into the Race Manager data base using the Race Manager Registration screen. The software then assigns a unique number to the participant's car. This unique number is used to identify each scout throughout the software. The number should be written on a small label (small self-adhesive pricing labels work well) which is then affixed to the bottom of the car. Tiger Cub cars are assigned numbers 1 through 39, Wolves are assigned 41 through 79, Bears are assigned 81 through 119, and so on. At your option, fourth and fifth grade Webelos can be raced as separate ranks, or combined into one Webelos rank. When all racers are registered the race can begin. Provision is included to register scouts who show up late, if desired.
To start the Pinewood Derby the race timing official selects which rank races first. Typically races are run starting with Tigers and ending with either Webelos or the open class. After selecting the first rank to race, the Race Manager will display the Race Scoreboard screen with the name and the car number of the first four racers assigned to each of the four track lanes. The timing official enables the race timing when all four cars have been placed on the track. This step provides a safety against false starts. If the start gate is released before timing is enabled, the software will detect a false start and require that the heat be re-run. When the race starter sees that all cars have been properly set at the start gate, and that the race timing has been enabled (this is indicated on the scoreboard screen) he is free to release the start gate. A sensor on the start gate mechanism detects the release of the gate and initiates timing. As each racer's car crosses the finish line, his time for the heat as well as order of finish are displayed. When all four cars have crossed the finish line, the race timing official can either void the heat, calling for a re-run, or accept the heat by calling for the next heat to be run. When the heat is accepted, the racer's times are automatically recorded into the data base. For the next heat, the software rotates each racer to the next lower numbered lane. The car which just finished on lane 4 will now race on lane 3, the lane 3 car will move to lane 2 and so on. A new scout will race on lane 4 and the racer from lane 1 will rotate to the end of the line to race on lane 4 at the end of the rank. In this way, all scouts in the rank will race one heat on each lane. The software will keep track of who should be where, and will automatically record all results into the data base. It is the responsibility of the race officials to make sure that the right car (by number) races on the right lane in each heat. Once the entire rank has been completed the procedure is repeated for the next rank, and so on through Wolves, Bears, etc.
When all ranks have raced, it is time to see who won! On the Race Manager Standings screen participants are listed by total time, with the lowest total time finishing in first place. Using radio buttons on the bottom of the screen, the race officials can view results for the entire pack, individual ranks, or individual dens. These standings can be saved to an ASCII file and printed as desired.
Using this cumulative time format, each participant races the same number of heats (four) regardless of how well his car performs. The race is well organized as the software displays just who should be racing at any one time, and parental arguments are eliminated. The race timer is resolved to one one-thousandth of a second, virtually eliminating dead heats.
The race scoreboard display is formatted to to a resolution of 640x480 pixels and uses large fonts so as to be easily viewed on a TV. To display on a TV the video signal has to be converted to that used by television. A video scan converter will accomplish this. Basically this is a small device that connects the the computer's VGA output and converts its signal. The TV signal plugs into the scan converter, ideally using a SVGA port. Other options include a PC with a video card that include TV output such as an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro card, or a TV equipped to accept VGA input. Many school audio visual departments have such an animal. Another large format display option is overhead projections. Whatever method you choose to use, a large, bright, display with a wide viewing angle can greatly enhance the crowd's experience.
On most computers, the timer is accurate to 0.001 seconds. The race timer uses assembly language routines to initialize an internal hardware timer to cycle at 7000 Hz. During the race, the timer resets the timer count to zero at the start of the race, and records the current timer count as each car crosses the finish line. Simple math converts this count into seconds.
On some notebook computers (Toshiba 430CDT for example) the timer count is interfered with by other hardware functions. This renders the timer inaccurate but consistent. To check the accuracy of the timer function on your computer run a race using a stopwatch, or wristwatch with seconds display, as reference. Start the race normally (numeric 0 key in demo mode)and then trip the lane 1 sensor (1 key using demo mode) after 30 seconds have elapsed. If the display shows close to 30 seconds elapsed time, then do nothing. If, however, the display shows a time that is significantly off you can adjust the timer calibration factor. To adjust the timer calibration factor, exit the software to the DOS prompt. On your hard drive, in the local sub directory find the file named DERBY.CFG. This is an ASCII file that can be edited using any text editor such as EDIT. The file consists of two lines. The first line is a setup value used to invert optional output lines. The second line is a numeric value for timer calibration and would normally read 7000. To adjust timer calibration change this value according to the formula Current_Calibration_Factor*(Display_Time / Actual_Time). For example, if you measured a heat at 30 seconds, but the displayed time was 18.937 seconds you would edit the calibration factor to 4419 -- (7000*(18.937 / 30)). Round the result to eliminate the decimals. Save the file and restart the race software, then test run a race to check the result.
To make the race scoreboard display more interesting, the time and finish place of each car is displayed as soon as that car crosses the finish line. Since some time is taken for video services, it is possible for two cars finishing at nearly the same time to have slightly inaccurate results. For example, if two cars cross the finish line at exactly the same time, their time displays would be exactly equal -- a dead heat. If on the other hand, the second car crosses the finish line only .001 second behind the first, its finish will not be recorded until the computer has finished updating the display for the first car. This can cause the finish time of the second car to be delayed by up to .005 seconds, depending on the speed of your computer. If this is objectionable, the software can be configured to update the display only after all four lanes have finished. With this configuration, lane finish differences of .001 seconds are easily resolved. To enable this feature, select OPTIONS -- FAST TIME ENABLED from the menu bar.
If you run a heat starting at 11:59:57 on December 31, 1999 any cars finishing in 1999 will actually show up as having lost to cars finishing in 2000 ;-). Seriously, the software is not date sensitive.
No, the software is designed to run cumulative time races only.
No, the software is designed to be used with a four lane track only. A track with greater than four lanes can be used if only four lanes of the track are utilized.
No hardware is provided. Applied Machine Control, Inc. is not a retail vendor and has no interest in selling hardware for the Race Manager. That said, we do provide a recommended parts list, including possible sources, and an electrical schematic. All hardware installation and wiring can easily be completed by a weekend warrior in a single weekend.
The short answer is anything that will sink 5 VDC will work. That said, there are certain things to consider when choosing sensors. First of all, contact bounce is not an issue as the software looks only at the leading edge of the first pulse received during a transition. With this in mind, a simple normally open micro switch can sucessfully be used for both the start gate and finish line sensors. For the start gate, a micro switch works well, as it can be set to trip off the gate mechanism as the gate opens. Using a micro switch for a lane sensor requires the car to contact the switch lever or actuating mechanism as the car crosses the finish line. Personally, I find this objectionable due to the possibility of mechanical failure and the difficulty in anticipating all the various creative car configuration the scouts use.
A better solution for lane sensors is to use photoelectric sensors. It is pretty basic and inexpensive for someone who likes home electronics projects to build a circuit using parts from Radio Shack that will sink 5 volts when a CdS cell is blocked. A problem with this simple approach is that it is very much affected by ambient light and must be sheilded, thus blocking the view of the finish line.
A huge light consideration is what happens when parents snap flash pictures when junior's car crosses the finish line. If you are using sensors that operate from reflected light when the car crosses over the sensor, a camera flash will in all likelihood set off the sensor. This can cause all four lanes to register exactly the same time. In my opinion, the best approach is to use a modulated infrared through beam sensor pair with an output that turns on when the sensor goes dark. This configuration, although more expensive, offers a high degree of immunity from ambient light and a very reliable setup. A small and reasonably priced sensor that fits the bill is an Omron EE-SPW311 Photomicrosensor (about $75.00 per lane). This is the sensor used in the electrical schematic included with the software.
The start and lane sensors connect directly to the computer's parallel port (LPT1). Each sensor must be capable of sinking 5VDC. Typically, a junction box is located close to the finish line. The junction box provides a convenient place to locate the power supply (if required) and to tie all the sensors into a single cable running to the computer. The computer end of the sensor cable terminates in a DB25P connector. Pin 25 is signal common and connects to the 0 VDC side of all five sensors. Pin 10 connects to the sensor output for lane 1, Pin 11 to Lane 2, Pin 12 to Lane 3, Pin 13 to Lane 4, and Pin 15 to the sensor output for the start gate sensor. A diagnostics screen (OPTIONS -- DIAGNOSTICS) is included that can be used to verify proper sensor operation.
Software registration is $25.00 U.S. I ask that you first try the software in "demo mode". If it looks like this solution will work for you, then go ahead and set up a track to run the race. After running the race, if you are happy with the result please send a check to Applied Machine Control, Inc., 4N412 Anderson Rd., Elburn, IL 60119. Please do not register the software until you run a race and are happy with the result. The shareware software is in no way crippled, nor does it provide any annoying reminders.
This is a difficult question to answer as it depends a great deal on what hardware you choose to use. Absolute minimum requirements, assuming you have a PC to use, would require microswitch start and lane sensors and a cable to the computer. This (undesirable) configuration could cost as little as $80.00 or so. A high end configuration would use commercially available modulated infrared sensors, power supply, cables, and video scan converter. This could be had for somewhere around $550.00
You can download it from my web site, www.amctrl.com, or request it via e-mail. Send e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, there is a "demo mode" provided which allows you to simulate a race using keyboard input. Select OPTIONS -- DEMO MODE from the menu bar. To run a simulated race select RACE from the menu bar and then select a rank from the dialog box in which you have racers registered. The race scoreboard will then be displayed. Select TIME using the mouse to enable race timing. Press the numeric 0 key to start the timer. Number keys 1 through 4 simulate lane sensors 1 through 4. Simply press the corresponding number key when you want each lane to finish. Note that because of the keyboard buffer you cannot obtain any dead or really close heats in demo mode. To exit demo mode select EXIT from the scoreboard display, then OPTIONS -- RACE MODE from the menu bar.
Yes. Select OPTIONS -- CLEAR TIMES from the menu bar. Caution, this will set all times for all racers back to 0. Times cleared cannot be recovered in any way.
The software package includes the ASCII file DERBYDEN.CFG which must be edited for your pack's names. This configuration file contains all the den names and numbers of your pack. All ranks must be included in the file, even if you have no dens racing in that rank (such as Fifth Grade Webelos). Each rank can have as few as zero or as many as ten dens listed underneath. The file format is as follows:
"1 Tiger Den 1"
"3 Den 3"
"4 Den 4"
"5 Den 5"
"2 Den 2"
"6 Den 6"
"7 Den 7"
"8 Den 8"
Each entry must be surrounded by quotation marks. Each cub scout rank is required in the file and must be in caps exactly as shown. Under each rank, you can edit the den names as required, using any ASCII editor such as Windows Notepad or DOS Edit. Each den listing consists of a numeric designation such as "3" followed by the den name such as "Den 3". The numeric designation must be unique for each den, and should range from 1 through the number of dens in your pack. The numeric designation does not have to match the den's actual name/number. The software tracks dens by the assigned numeric designation, and this is the value that will be displayed on the registration screen under "Den No.". It is not necessary to remember this number as den selection during registration is by den name. In addition, the assigned numeric designation orders the den name radio buttons on the race standings screen. In other words, according to the configuration file above, the Den 8 (8) radio button will precede the Knights (9) radio button. Do not include an "OPEN" or "DADS" entry in this file even if you choose to run an open race -- this class is always included in the software, although you do not have to use it.
Have a race official assigned to operate the computer during registration. Locate a registration table in some logical place, like near the door where the kids enter. Each racer must bring his/her car to the registration table to register for the race and to have a unique car number assigned. To begin registration, choose REGISTER from the menu bar. Click on (or press ENTER) the NEW command button to register a new contestant. After each field is filled, use TAB to move to the next field. Racers full last names and first initial will be displayed during the race, so try to avoid typos. You will be able to choose Den Numbers from a selection box when this field is active. Upon selecting a den number, the software will fill in the Rank field and assign a car number. If the rank displayed does not actually correspond to the den number chosen, then a mistake was made in the den configuration file. Once all fields are complete click on the SAVE command button, then NEW to start registering the next scout. You will notice two available ranks in addition to the traditional ones. OPEN is available if you want to run an open class, and OTHER is designed to accommodate late registrants. If you have someone come in late, race him as an OTHER, and when his rank is finished racing, edit his rank entry to reflect his true rank before announcing results.
A note on car numbers. The software assignes a unique car number to every entrant. DO NOT PRE-ASSIGN CAR NUMBERS! All race results are tracked by car number, and duplicate car numbers cannot be assigned. When you actually register kids to race, a sticker with the car number will have to be affixed to each car as it is assigned.
After registration closes, a race order printout can be obtained to help the MC organize the scouts. Select OPTIONS -- RUN ORDER from the menu bar to create the file RUNORDER.ASC on disc. Exit the Race Manager software and copy this file to LPT1 to print out the race running order.
When you are ready to race, connect the computer to the track by connecting the lane sensor cable to the computer's parallel port. Two race officials are required. The first is the Race Timer, and operates the computer. The second is the Race Starter and operates the track start gate, as well as making sure that the cars are placed on the correct lane according to number. The race timer selects RACE from the menu bar and is presented with a pick list to choose the desired rank to race. Upon rank selection the race scoreboard screen is displayed with the first scheduled cars assigned to their respective lanes. This is a good time to enable the external TV display so that the crowd can see the race scoreboard. Menu selections on the bottom of the scoreboard screen allow the Race Timer to enable race timing (Time), accept the last heats results and set up for the next heat (Next), choose a new rank to race (Rank), exit the scoreboard screen (Exit), and void the results of the current heat (Void). The ability to void the current results is included to easily accomodate some problems such as a paper airplane landing on the track during a heat. Voiding results will cause the heat to be re-run.
The TIME heading on the race scoreboad is surrounded by colored boxes. The boxes will be red when timing is not enabled, yellow when timing is enabled, and green when a race is in progress. The Race Timer enables timing by selecting Time from the menu after all the cars for the current heat are in position at the start gate. Once timing is enabled, the colored boxes will turn yellow allowing the Race Starter to release the start gate. Should the starter release the start gate prior to race timing being enabled, a false start will be indicated on the scoreboard and the heat will be re-run. Each heat's timing is actually started by the start gate tripping the start gate sensor. As each car crosses the finish line, its time and finish place within the heat are displayed. NOTE: If fast timing is enabled, the time and finish place will not be displayed until all four cars have crossed the finish line.
Once all cars have finished, the colored boxes will revert to red. The Race Timer can now void the results, or select Next from the menu to set up the next heat. When all racers registered for the current rank have raced on all four lanes, the display will indicate that the race class is complete. The Race Timer can now select the next rank. After all ranks are complete, the OTHER class should be run if there are any late registrants. Finally, run the OPEN class if desired.
After running the OPEN class, edit the registration data for each scout in the class to reflect their actual dens. This will insert their results into the appropriate den and rank.
After all racing is complete it is a good idea to shut off the external TV display to allow the MC some dramatics in announcing results.
Basically, the software sits there until all finish line sensors are tripped. In practice, after a car stalls on the track, a race official will count to 10 or so and then swipe his hand across the sensor. This gives the car a finish time, but WELL behind the competitive cars. Also, if race officials determine that the car didn't make it due to some track defect, the option exists to void the results and re-run the heat. Of course, if a lane is scheduled empty by the software, that lane's finish sensor does not need to be tripped.
Select STANDINGS from the menu bar. Radio buttons on the bottom of the Standings display allow you to view results for the entire pack, a specific rank, each individual den, or the OPEN class. Racers names are displayed in the order of finish along with their car number, times on each lane, total time, and place. Command buttons are used to scroll or page down the results.
Results can be viewed at any time, but note that racers that have not races on all lanes will almost allways have lower total times than those who have completed all their heats.
Well, mistakes happen. If something happens during a race and you did not catch it during the heat it occurred (allowing you to void the results), you can edit the data base times. From the Standings display find the name or car number of the times in question. Double click on the bad time to display an edit box on the bottom of the display. Inside this box edit the time as desired. Typically, one would edit all the times for the particular car back to zero and have the car re-run the entire race. The easiest way to do this is, after all other racing is complete, edit the scouts registration data to reflect a den of OTHER. Race the OTHER class. Then re-edit the scouts den back to what it should be. This will insert this car's results into the appropriate rank. I would stronly recommend against directly editing the data base times while the external TV display is on.
Your lane sensors are getting an extraneous signal, usually some parents camera flash. Use sensors that are immune to camera flash or enforce a rule that flash pictured are not allowed during a race. You can make time available after the event for photo opportunities should you so desire.
The status if each input signal (start gate sensor and lane sensors) is displayed in the upper left portion of the screen. This is included so that during installation and setup the user can verify correct sensor operation and lane assignment prior to running a race. The remainder of the screen deal with outputs which are provided to drive lane finish order displays in the race track itself. When the software was originally written, the local track showed finish places as each car crossed the finish line (1,2,3,4). This feature, though undocumented, is included in the software to insure backwards compatability. Outputs are in no way required to use the software.
The software relies on the parallel port lines being normally "high" or at +5VDC. If the line is not high, the software will recognize this as a tripped sensor. The solution is to add 4.7k ohm resistors between each parallel port line and a 5VDC power supply. It is recommended that these resistors be added to all systems to insure that the system will work with multiple PCs. Refer to the schematics for details.
Error 271 signifies an unsupported video mode. The video mode of the actual race display is 600 x 200 x 16 colors. If this video mode is unsupported on your computer in DOS, then you can run the software under Windows. You will have to edit the time base (in the file DERBY.CFG) from 7000 to about 1000 to achieve accurate results.
If Race Manager exits abnormally, the data base (DERBY.MDB) is not properly closed and becomes corrupted. The software will not run with a corrupt data base. If this happens, you can delete the data base and then run the software. A new data base will be created as the program initializes. It is recommended that after your scouts have been registered, you exit the program and backup the data base (copy DERBY.MDB to DERBYMDB.BAK). If you then have a problem, you can delete the DERBY.MDB file and copy DERBYMDB.BAK to DERBY.MDB and not lose the registered scouts.
This Race Manager software is in no way, shape, or form the way I make my livelyhood. I am far too busy to return telephone calls relating to this software -- especially long distance ones! I am happy to respond to email questions: email@example.com
Applied Machine Control, Inc.
4N412 Anderson Rd.
Elburn, IL 60119-8515