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As Kenea Romero prepared her bridge for this year’s Mooseheart Bridge Breaking competition, she had multiple thoughts in mind. Of course, she hoped to do well, and maybe even win the contest. She also wanted her bridge to do better than brother Greg Hernandez, whose 2017 champion bridge held 58.2 pounds, the second-most in contest history, before breaking.
Romero achieved only one of her goals, but she was still beaming after her bridge held 37 pounds before it broke. That total, though not as much as her brother achieved, was still more than twice what any bridge held this year – and she claimed the contest crown.
“I’m happy that I won,” Romero said. “I’m a little sad that I didn’t beat my brother’s 58. Thirty-seven is OK.”
Twelve bridges were entered in this year’s contest, the most by far in recent years in the senior-level science class. Omoyi Omana’s bridge, one of the lightest on the competition, held 15.8 pounds and finished second. Love Quetee’s bridge held 15.4 pounds before it broke and finished third.
Every year prior to the bridge breaking contest, Mooseheart physics teacher Curt Schlinkmann teaches students the principles of solid bridge construction. To show how these principles are used in the real world, Mooseheart’s physics students had a chance to talk with engineers at ICC, an Elburn-based general contractor.
“I think they learned more than in the past,” Schlinkmann said. “In the past, I think it was often ‘I just built this bridge.’ This year, I felt they were able to tie some of the ideas together, which I think really helps.”
As part of their instruction, ICC employees went with Mooseheart students in November to view one of the bridges over the Illinois River in Peru. Romero said she took into account advice from the ICC engineers as she built her bridge.
“I was talking with a guy from (ICC) and he helped me with the shape of the bridge,” Romero said. “I also looked at my brother’s bridge from last year, and that gave me ideas.”
ICC Vice President Daniel Kelly spoke to the Mooseheart students following the bridge breaking, and used examples from the students’ bridges to discuss strong points and weak points in various designs.
“I think it gives the kids more of an idea of how bridges are built,” Schlinkmann said. “It’s not just ‘I built it and it broke.’ We were able to show them how real bridges are built and they had some real ideas they could have incorporated into their bridge.”