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Why Can't Kids Drive?

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  • Why Can't Kids Drive?

    Over the course of a lifetime I have, on occasion, allowed kids of various ages to run on my tracks. Especially on my 4 x 12 foot HO banked oval, which I used to bring to Bob Beers' Superbowl Sunday slot events on Long Island. And more recently my step-grandkids, ages 7 and 8.

    What has surprised and confounded me is the common failure of these newbies to understand that you apply power for the straights and brake for the curves. It just doesn't seem to get across.

    Now the grandkids love running the cars, full throttle, under reduced power. They run 100-laps races without any controller action, and have a ton of fun doing it. But if I increase the voltage even a bit they're spinning and crashing continuously. I try to coach them, and ever so often the older child seems to get a clue, but it doesn't last.

    I don't understand it. Yes, competitive slot racing does take skill. That's the whole point! But why are so many kids so very bad at it, even on a dirt-simple oval?

    Back in the day -- the early '60's when nearly every boy had an Aurora Model Motoring set, or had a friend with one, I don't remember there being this issue with hopeless driving. Everybody drove their cars, and yes, deslots and crashes were common, but in general piloted their cars reasonably well. And we had a blast!

    It's not like we had training. There were no slot racers' academies or advanced placement classes. Kids picked up controllers and quickly mastered the basics.

    Now I do have to say I have seen a few kids that found the handle. I especially remember watching one toddler (!) doing a very credible job of piloting a 1/24th scale car at a commercial raceway. His father told me he was 3 years old!

    And there's a teenager who often raced in the HOCOC series -- back before the end of times -- who not only was competitive but scored at least one race win. (His mother, who brought him to the events, was a very competent driver herself.)

    But these seem to be the exceptions, And it puzzles the heck out of me.

    I have, on occasion, had some evidence that my slot racing has given me some enhanced hand/eye skill. I remember embarrassing a pair of late-teens men -- very sure of themselves -- at air hockey. (I also routinely routed them at the card game of Hearts. Not relevant here.)

    That should not be surprising. It would be remarkable if all that track time hadn't developed some hand/eye skill.

    But that still doesn't explain why today's youngsters seem so incompetent, even those given plenty of time to practice.

    Am I missing something here? Do I mis-remember how terrible we actually were at the dawn of slot racing? Or did we have some secret sauce that gave us an edge? Were we simply more involved and motivated to actually control our cars?

    Yes, this post is on the order of 'the young generation is going to hell'. I still have enough of my marbles to realize that. Still...

    Ed Bianchi




  • #2
    Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
    Now the grandkids love running the cars, full throttle, under reduced power. They run 100-laps races without any controller action, and have a ton of fun doing it. But if I increase the voltage even a bit they're spinning and crashing continuously. I try to coach them, and ever so often the older child seems to get a clue, but it doesn't last.
    I run exactly the same way and they love it but they really have no interest in actually learning how to drive. Case in point. I have a Ford GT that even on the lowest power setting you still have to slow down for the corners so the car is off limits when they come over. My 8 yr old grandson asks to drive it every time he comes over and I let him try but he just doesn't get it. I don't understand it either but they enjoy it anyway.
    This has been posted before but it still makes me laugh.
    Dave

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXR7DVM6pXk

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    • #3
      Crash and learn (burn) ONLY for kids. Last car standing wins. If they care, they learn pretty quick not to just hold the trigger at full power.
      But yes, it can take them a while, and girls usually "get it" quicker than boys. And there should be no car that can take the entire lap at full throttle without crashing. If any of them do, the kids with cars that crash will quickly realize they want the one that doesn't.

      To be fair, though, I've seen plenty of adults that take a while to get it, even ones that come to the club races because they are interested in being competitive. ;-)
      Last edited by MrFlippant; 07-31-2020, 07:39 AM.

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      • #4
        I have one granddaughter left to introduce to my slot car track, after two grandsons and three granddaughters have already been exposed. They have all loved it at one point, but few of them ever did learn to drive. I did have one granddaughter who- whenever I set up a competitive race and turned the power loose- would find the maximum amount of throttle that would ensure she would never come off, and drive at that speed all the way round. This was almost always a winning strategy!

        My grandsons are the oldest, and they eventually caught on- unfortunately when they were young teenagers with little interest in the track.
        Last edited by b.yingling; 07-31-2020, 07:38 AM.

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        • #5
          Turning the voltage down Ed? Egad! Might as well put magnets on the chassis too. giggle

          Im with Flippant. I give them beater bodies, what we call rental cars here LOL, in a crash and burn format. It they need to get up to speed give them a slower chassis. I also make them marshal their own carnage. Paying the tow company so to speak.

          I'll add one notable observation. Consider that most kids now are completely digitized by an early age. Watch them try to pulse the linear action of a Russkit style controller as though it were a gamer button, in order to get variations in speed. Pretty darn comical. No less funny than gramps on a game station.



          Grampa Bill

          A regular source of sugar, mayem, and corrupter of 5 grandyuns and two greats. Then send them home to their parents.






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          • #6
            MM,

            One of my canned lectures that I queue up and run all too frequently -- referring to their controller -- "It's not a water pistol!"

            I also ask 'em if their mother drives their car by stomping up and down on the gas pedal.

            On one occasion I was told dead-pan, "Yes, she does."

            Oh my.

            And it isn't just youngsters who mistake their controller for a water pistol. I have seen a number of quasi-competitive racers run just that way. I try to gently show them to the light. Doesn't work.

            Ed Bianchi
            Last edited by HO RacePro; 07-31-2020, 09:25 AM.

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            • #7
              It's not hard to understand. Kids don't really get slot cars, in the main, but *crashing* they understand and enjoy.

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              • #8
                So... tough love for the grandkids?

                Does make sense. Could be an interesting experiment. See how long they want to play on the track before they either find the handle or quit from frustration.

                There is a notable difference here. In the days of yore it was we who assembled the track, wired it up, ran the cars and fielded the offs. No doting adults involved. Nobody was out ahead of us flattening the learning curve. We did it all ourselves, made it work, and had the aforementioned blast.

                It still puzzles me why such a simple concept eludes most younguns. And it was true in the days before every kid had a game platform. It isn't due to the transition from an analog world to a digital one.

                Ed Bianchi

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                • #9
                  Exactly.

                  Everyone who started on "carpet racing" raise their hand.

                  Mothers lament. "Is that dang track going clutter the Rec room for ever?"

                  The answer was, "duh mom!"

                  Then dad would give you the look.

                  LOL

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                  • #10
                    A couple of years ago we had a family gathering and hired a hall for the afternoon so the kids could play football or badminton or just run about, we brought toys and a scalextric set.

                    The grandkids had played with the slot cars before but as you say it was WTFO and the strongest magnet wins but my two teenagers had never driven a slot car before whilst my son has driven a 1/10th R/C tourer a few times albeit about 10 years ago. I said you need to realise that you have to slow for the bends and accelerate on the straights, after a few minutes of the usual WTFO driving they both realised that marshalling their own car every few seconds wasn't as enjoyable as driving and quickly started driving properly. It was nice to see both my son and daughter enjoyed driving these slot cars. To succeed in anything you need pain to make gain.

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                    • #11
                      Hurt me! Hurt me! I love it!

                      Ed Bianchi

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                      • #12
                        Years ago there was a shop in Bloomington, Il. near ISU that did D&D and rented computer time. The owner thought a slot car track would be a good accompaniment for his shop. He had a nice large plastic track. The students gravitated to the track and promptly destroyed his rental fleet. The owner was mystified until he finally noticed the kids playing computer games. The gamers didn’t finesse the controllers; they constantly pounded them or held them down all the time.
                        That was the “a ha” moment for the owner. He had to teach the kids to let up on the controller.
                        The shop disappeared after a while. At least the owner enlightened me to Road Race Replicas.

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                        • #13
                          Are the kids in these examples being allowed to race, or just turning laps?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by NicoRosberg. View Post
                            Are the kids in these examples being allowed to race, or just turning laps?
                            Does it matter for kids that age? Any kids I have introduced to slot cars want to be the fastest even when they are just running laps.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by NicoRosberg. View Post
                              Are the kids in these examples being allowed to race, or just turning laps?
                              If there's more than one driving you can be guaranteed within a minute they'll be racing...so they start playing and end racing

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