PEPPERELL -- Members of Cub Scout Pack 55 were off to the races as scouts and their families gathered for the group's annual Pinewood Derby.

The derby challenges the Scouts in grades 1-4 to design, build and paint their own 6- to 7-inch wooden car. The cars were raced at the Pepperell Christian Fellowship Church, and medals were awarded to the top finishers.

The top four finishers overall were Ben Whittemore, Matt Whittemore, Mason Kosman and Adam Ippolito. Each car traveled at speeds of 182 miles per hour or faster.

Ben Whittemore is in fourth-grade, and has made a car every year since becoming a Cub Scout.

"It's always exciting when you go there. You always get excited when your car is on the track and you want it to win. When your car is not on the track, you can cheer on the people that are racing," he said.

His father, Justin Whittemore, who also serves as a den leader for the first-grade Scouts, said building the cars has become a yearly tradition. And now that his younger sons are in first-grade, the event has become even more of a family affair.

"We researched some car designs and (Ben) drew some of his own. We got to kind of work together on it. I had him draw the designs and then we copied it onto the car. It's kind of a tradition now -- we go to Ben's grandfather's house where he has a woodworking shop. We put the design on the car and his grandfather cuts it," Justin Whittemore said.

The cars are made from a small block of pine and raced down a small downhill track, he said.

Seeing his son's progress throughout his years as a Scout has been one of the positives of scouting, Justin Whittemore said.

"That's one of the good things about Scouts in general is that the older kids each year, as they go up in rank and get more responsibility, we always try to remind them to set an example for the younger kids," he said. "They help guide the younger kids to teach them the ropes and tell them the rules so when we have Pack meetings, the older boys help keep the younger boys in line and teach them what they're supposed to do."

Laurie Mongelli's son, Mikey, also participated in the derby. She said the experience helped show the Scouts the outcome of hard work.

"The experience of them building their own car and racing it is great for them on a creative level and great for their confidence because they get to complete

something and see that it works," she said. "It's a bonding thing, too, because a lot of the boys make it with their dad or another adult that's a role model for them."

In general, she said being a part of Pack 55 has been an invaluable experience for her son.

"There's a huge amount of benefits that I didn't realize going in. I thought it would be a fun, social thing, but it's just so much more," Laurie Mongelli said.

"It promotes independence, teaches them how to do things on their own, builds confidence because they are trying lots of new things under the guidance of an adult, and they do it in a way that everyone succeeds," she added.

Mongelli said that anyone interested in joining Pack 55 should contact her by calling 978-852-4570.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.