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For 33 years, it’s been a tradition at Mooseheart for Curt Schlinkmann’s physics class members to participate in a bridge breaking contest in early January. The 2019 version of that contest took place on Wednesday and senior Amanda Jones’ won when her bridge held 33.6 pounds of weight before it cracked.
Jones and Anthony Gomez were the only participants in this year’s contest – and at its conclusion, Schlinkmann’s reign as the contest’s originator and overseer came to a close. Schlinkmann, who has taught at Mooseheart since 1973 and who inaugurated the bridge breaking in 1987, retires at the end of this school year.
“I think it’s been fun for the kids,” Schlinkmann said. “They put a lot of effort into building the bridges and there’s stress in the contest. When they come back, it’s fun for them to remember and we always end up talking about their bridges and the contest.”
Jones, a Mooseheart senior, said she chose to take physics because she saw previous contests as a spectator.
“The reason I did physics is that I wanted to break a bridge,” Jones said. “(Schlinkmann) has been a great teacher. He’s a very precious being. Most of our classes have been more like discussion than lectures and we really get into the material,” Jones said.
More than just a contest, the bridge breaking allows Schlinkmann to teach students the physics behind bridge construction, and Jones used some of those principles when she built her bridge.
“I learned about compression and tension and how different truss bridges work under compression and tension. Each stick on my bridge alternated between compression and tension. I was hoping for the record (71 pounds), but I’m happy with 33,” Jones said.
Gomez, also a Mooseheart senior, saw his bridge hold 9.2 pounds before cracking. Considering there have always been some bridges that broke when the bucket was attached underneath, his performed admirably.
“I could have done better if I had balanced it more and followed the guidelines better,” Gomez said. “I wasn’t sure if it would hold the bucket, but it did better than I thought it would.”
In addition to teaching, 68-year old Schlinkmann was the school’s long-time varsity boys track coach and coached middle school football as well. He remains especially passionate about physics.
“Physics is everything. It’s really a study of motion and it’s a study of energy. If you look around, everything’s got motion and some kind of energy – so physics is involved in all of it,” Schlinkmann said.
Students like Jones and Gomez – and the hundreds he has worked with over the past 46 years have made the Mooseheart journey worthwhile for Schlinkmann.
“I consider the students here to be like my second family,” Schlinkmann said. “When former students come back and say, ‘I remember. I sat here and learned. Others say that what they learned was an influence on what they became later on, and that’s rewarding.”
While this year’s class is exceptionally small, Mooseheart class sizes are always smaller than at most area schools – something Schlinkmann has appreciated.
“The nice thing is that you do get to know the students on a more personal level than at another school,” he said. “The small class size helps, but you may also have the same student for three or four years. Some of the kids, I coached them in middle school football and had them in class until they graduated, and you do get to know them.”
Schlinkmann said it will be strange to not prepare for a school year for the first time since the early 70s, but added that he hopes the bridge breaking contest will continue, if the school’s new science teacher wishes to do so.
“I think I will miss my co-workers, who are my friends, and the students,” Schlinkmann said. “I won’t miss getting up early or lesson plans or grading papers. But I will miss those moments where a student and I made a connection over something we were discussing in class and you got to see that spark of learning.”