Negaunee High School bridge builders claim first place in national competition
NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee High School bridge builders are back.
The team had won 10 consecutive competitions before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The pandemic forced cancellation of in-person events.
But with the return of the traditional style of competition, NHS students again showed they really know how to build bridges.
A team from the school won the 11th-12th grade division of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Bridge Challenge competition earlier this month in Seattle.
A news release from the Michigan Department of Transportation states that for the 10th year in a row, a team from Negaunee High School, advised by Kevin Bell, won the 11th-12th grade division of the national bridge challenge in 2019. That was the last time this contest was held in person before this year’s event.
The contest switched gears to become a virtual showcase in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While remaining virtual in 2022, it returned to its traditional format this year.
The competition’s goal is to develop a bridge that will carry as much weight as possible while weighing as little as possible. Students compete in separate age categories: grades 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12. Michigan teams took first-place honors in all three age categories and second place in two.
Eighteen squads competed in the national finals this year, selected from a pool of 86 portfolios. The competition has five phases: using software to design a bridge, building a physical bridge model using glue and balsa wood from prepackaged kits, developing a portfolio, making a presentation in front of a panel of judges, and destructive testing of the bridge models to calculate the strength-to-weight ratios.
Negaunee team members are seniors Rylan Hemmila, Thomas McCollum and Phil Nelson. The team name is the 906 Bridge Co.
According to a Facebook post from Negaunee Public Schools, their bridge held 266 pounds and had a weight of just 39 grams. The students created a proposal and drawings of their bridge to get selected.
The NPS Facebook post also noted that at the state level, Nathan Keough, Nelson and Hemmila won the competition with their bridge holding over 300 pounds. The state competition had more than 130 participants this year.
Negaunee also had a third-place finish this year in the state competition. The team members were Brandon Borlace, Jace Turri and Dawson Erva.