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There was a point when it seemed that Greg Hernandez really had built the bridge that couldn’t be broken – at least not with the weight on-hand at Mooseheart’s 31st annual Bridge Breaking Contest, which took place Jan. 6.
Hernandez’s bridge used all the weights available and then used some additional weights added by Mooseheart physics teacher Curt Schlinkmann. Ultimately, Hernandez saw his bridge break while more weight was being sought, but not before he reached 58.2 pounds, the second-most in the history of the contest. The record remains Adrianna Tezanos-Pinto’s 2007 bridge, which held 71 pounds.
Hernandez said he wasn’t sure how strong his bridge would be, but that he took some advice when he began construction. He said it took a day to build his champion bridge.
“They told me to put more strength on the body and not to worry about the legs,” Hernandez said. “So I reinforced the body, but I didn’t think it was going to take all that weight.”
As he added weight to the bucket suspended from the bridge, however, Hernandez saw that his bridge was stronger than he imagined.
“I was nervous because you never know when it’s going break,” Hernandez said. “I was nervous the whole time, expecting it to break – but it didn’t.”
This year’s contest was one of the strongest in recent years. Finishing second to Hernandez was Leslie Ramirez-Tapia finished second after her bridge held 36.3 before breaking. Joey Leitner and Steven Foy tied for third in the six-bridge competition with bridges that each held 17.4 pounds. All of this year’s bridge-builders were seniors.
“It was awesome,” Schlinkmann said. “They had really good weights this year. Some of them have good designs but miss a point or two along the way. (Hernandez) had a really nice bridge.”
Schlinkmann inaugurated the bridge breaking contest in 1987. The contest is part of Schlinkmann’s teaching curriculum, which involves instruction into what makes a good bridge design. The students spend class time after the contest discussing why the bridges broke.
“We’ll analyze what part of the bridge broke and why and what they might have done differently,” Schlinkmann said. “I like seeing them break the bridges. Most of them work hard on them and it pays off.”