Graham Lewis toppled his competitors at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 18th annual Linguini Bridge Contest Monday morning. His winning entry achieved what seemed like the im-pasta-ble and withstood 1,170 pounds of weight.
Graham laughed when he recalled a major setback in the construction of his winning bridge, which almost turned it into a casserole.
“I did one leg, and my dad put it in the oven to dry – and my mom turned the oven on,” he said. “So we had to restart. But that leg by itself held 200 pounds, so I was hoping for at least 400 to 500 pounds.”
The competition began at 7:45 am in the Performing Arts Center with 85 bridges. Nine survived rounds one and two, withstanding 100 pounds and then an additional 200 pounds, to qualify for the “go-for-broke” third round, where weights were added until a bridge failed. The competition continued with snaps, crackles and crashes, and ended about 10:30.
Math teachers Ken DeBettencourt and Melissa Braillard emceed the event. About 150 of their students participated in the competition as a required freshman math project. Mr. DeBettencourt created the contest and has organized and run it every year.
The contest rules are simple: bridges must be constructed using only Prince-brand linguini held together with regular Elmer’s glue, weigh less than one pound, and be able to support a minimum of 25 pounds.
Students compete individually or in teams of two. They are allowed to get help from parents or other knowledgeable sources. Graham said his dad, Lorne Lewis, who works in construction, proved a very helpful and valuable resource. They used an empty iPhone 5 box as a form in which to build the bridge’s legs, which helped in alignment and keeping the angles straight, Graham said.
His friend, sophomore Ben deBettencourt, who assisted him onstage with placing weights on his bridge, happened to be last year’s contest winner. Ben’s bridge held 1,500 pounds.