Stir sticks and dental floss equals cash

Wood splinters were flying at Porter Creek Secondary School Saturday as the 13th Annual Bridge Building Competition came to a crashing end.

Wood splinters were flying at Porter Creek Secondary School Saturday as the 13th Annual Bridge Building Competition came to a crashing end.

Using only wooden stir sticks, white glue and dental floss, competitors vied for bridge supremacy, bragging rights and a $100 first-place prizes.

Nearly 300 builders entered 140 bridges in four categories (Grades 4/5, Grades 6/7, Grades 8-12 and open).

Every structure met the same end. It was set between blocks with a bucket hung from its centre, which was loaded with steel weights until the structure exploded or sagged five centimetres.

Heiko Nyland from Golden Horn Elementary took the top prize in the Grade 4/5 category, with a 136-gram bridge that held 16.9 kilograms.

Whitehorse Elementary’s David Lister and Adrian Hynes took second place, and Jack Hulland’s Joshua Ford and Danielle Johnson took third.

Golden Horn took gold in the Grade 6/7 category as well, thanks to Laura Bellon’s entry, which held 23.3 kilograms and weighed only 125.3 grams.

Second place went to Miriam Ott from Holy Family School, and third went to Puneet Singh from Selkirk.

Thirteen Yukon schools were represented, including Robert Service from Dawson and the Ross River School. Whitehorse’s Holy Family entered 34 bridges, the most of any school.

“This was a good year — you can link it to how many teachers actively take up the challenge,” said chief judge Catherine Harwood, a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Yukon.

The association hosts the event in conjunction with Yukon College’s Innovators in the Schools program.

“It’s really great,” said Innovators’ Heather Dundas. She added that teachers from Selkirk and FH Collins incorporated the competition into their curriculum.

“This is the first year that high school classes are using class time to actually build bridges, and use the scores for their marks.”

It helps Grade 8 students understand scale and surface area principles in a fun way, said FH Collins math teachers Karine Belanger. and Wendy Close.

In a very close Grade 8-12 division, longtime rivals Ryan Bachli and Alexander Chisholme split the top four spots between them.

Chisholme’s arch designs took first and fourth places, and Bachli’s flat bridges with V-supports underneath took second and third place.

Chisholme’s winning bridge weighed 148.8 grams and held 42.3 kilograms.

“I always believed you need a light, strong bridge, but I was proven wrong by Ryan last year, he built a bridge over 190 grams and it held a astronomical amount,” said Chisholme after the event.

Bachi’s second-place bridge weighed 151.4 grams and held 40.2 kilograms. The flaw in his design became apparent during the competition.

“I try to make it so everything works together,” he said. “The ends always break so I guess I’ve got to make those stronger.”

There’s always next year for this perennial showdown between these two Porter Creek students.

“It goes to show that people are still learning, and long-term competitors like Alexander and Ryan, who’ve been competing since they were tiny, now they’re in the top ranks and taking home the cash,” said Harwood.

It’s also helps to put the engineering profession on the young students’ radar, although they may not know it.

“I just like the competition of it,” said Chisholme when asked if he was considering a career in the field. Bachli agreed.

Entrants all received the same building materials three months ago, and some classes got a seminar on fundamental bridge building theory from an engineer.

“Sports get a lot of attention … this is a good way to celebrate kids in science,” said Dundas.

In the open division, which included bridges from younger and older competitors, and families, Ryan Bachli’s father Erwin took the title with a 140.8-gram bridge that held an astonishing 83 kilograms.

Second-place finishers Robert Gilbert and J.P. Pinard’s bridge held 45.2 kilograms and weighed just 122 grams.

Erwin and Lisa Bachli’s bridge took third, weighing in at 136.5 grams and holding 49 kilograms.

When asked if there were any ringers (professional engineers) in the open competition, Harwood replied; “I tried that once myself and only came in ninth, so that’s a little embarrassing.”