Martha’s Vineyard Linguini Bridge Contest was a smashing success

Freshmen Ben Davey and Mya Houston add more weight to "London Bridge, Take Two!" as teacher Ken DeBettencourt looks on. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 16th Annual Linguini Bridge Contest in the Performing Arts Center Monday was a shattering experience.

Second place winners freshmen Connor Downing (left) and Anders Nelson placed a total of 945 pounds on their pasta bridge before it crushed under the weight.

“London Bridge, Take Two!” built by Ben Davey and Mya Houston captured first place in the all-freshmen competition by withstanding 990 pounds of weight.

In a conversation with The Times following the contest, the winning pair said they did not start out as a team.

“We have study hall together, and we were talking about the bridge project and realized we were both working on one alone, so we decided to team up,” Mya said.

Ben estimated they worked about 40 hours last week to build their bridge. “It took between five to ten hours just to come up with the design,” he added.

Ben did some research online and found some examples of bridges built with spaghetti that they could modify for use with linguini.

“I was totally surprised when our bridge won,” Ben said. “I thought it might hold 500 pounds.”

“I was not that surprised,” Mya countered. “I thought we had a good bridge going in.”

She was in complete agreement with Ben, however, when he said they won the contest for Tisbury School, their alma mater.

“Now they’ll have bragging rights,” Mya said of the school’s students, which include her brother Cole, a seventh-grader, and Ben’s brother Jason, a sixth-grader.

Ben said Jason’s class planned to watch MVTV’s live coverage of the linguini bridge contest. “He’ll be pumped that we won,” Ben said.

The competition began at 7:45 am this morning with 65 bridges. During the competition, weights were added until a bridge failed. The competition continued with snaps, crackles and crashes, and ended about 11 am.

Mathematics and technology teacher Ken DeBettencourt created the contest and has organized and run it every year. The 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.

The competition is open to individual students or teams of two. Contestants are allowed to get help from parents or other knowledgeable sources.

As a new twist this year, Mr. DeBettencourt and freshmen team math teacher Carole Sylva required all ninth-grade students to participate, which doubled the usual amount of entries.

At last year’s contest, freshman Gordon Moore’s winning bridge withstood 1,500 pounds of weight, the maximum allowed onstage for safety reasons, and survived intact. On a final test conducted later in the school weight room, the bridge held an additional 650 pounds, for a total of 2,150 pounds.