Martha’s Vineyard students put linguini to the ultimate al dente test

Victoria Scott, Lizzie Williamson claim linguini bridge victory by reaching the 990 pound mark.

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Students Victoria Scott and Lizzie Williamson claimed victory in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School 19th annual Linguini Bridge Contest Monday morning. The pair who normally team up on the tennis court focused their competitive energy on a bridge design that supported 990 pounds of weight, and edged out the competition by 45 pounds.

For Ms. Williamson, a sophomore, it was her second attempt at the bridge contest. After six broken bridges last year, this year’s winning bridge was built in one attempt. The trick was building it in one solid piece and working from the side, she said. She also had a warning for next year’s contestants – sturdy linguini bridges take time to make.

“Start in February,” she said. “And find a good Netflix show to watch while you’re doing it.”

Ms. Williamson and Ms. Scott chose “Friends” as their linguini-gluing show, which inspired the name of their bridge, “Unagi.” It’s a term used by the character Ross, meaning “a state of total awareness.”

After the competition, Ms. Scott was still surprised by the victory.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “It’s unreal because we’ve been hearing about this for years.”

She said the duo took the advice of last year’s participants and infused their own creativity into the design. “And we had fun in the process,” she said.

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. Students compete individually or in teams of two. They are allowed to get help from parents or other knowledgeable sources.

As a result of a snow-induced two-hour delay, the competition kicked off at 9:45 am in the Performing Arts Center with 78 bridges on stage. After two rounds — 50 pounds in the first and 200 pounds in the second — pasta littered the floor and 21 bridges were standing.

A “go-for-broke” third round followed: one after another, 45-pound weights were added until a bridge failed. The competition continued with snaps, crackles, and crashes, and ended at about 1:30 pm.

Math teachers Ken DeBettencourt and Melissa Braillard emceed the event. Most of their students participated in the competition as a required freshman math project, although interested upperclassmen may also participate. Mr. DeBettencourt created the contest and has organized and run it every year.

Last year’s winner, Graham Lewis, built a bridge that withstood 1,170 pounds. Gordon Moore’s school record still stands at 2,175 pounds.