School represents Oregon for 11th consecutive year at global bridge building event

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Riverdale students Cole Bemis and Kate Hollingshead beam at the International Bridge Building Competition on May 10.For the third time in the last six years, a Riverdale High School student has snagged first place in the International Bridge Building Competition.

At the event last Saturday in Chicago, Riverdale students for the 11th year in a row represented Oregon, and Riverdale sophomore Cole Bemis pocketed the coveted top spot in the contest. Fellow Riverdale student Kate Hollingshead earned 13th in a competition with 58 contestants hailing from at least half the states in the United States and from Indonesia, said Jody Haagenson, Riverdale School District SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kate Hollingshead piles weight onto her basswood bridge.

“It’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve won so far,” Bemis said. “It’s kind of hard to describe. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. It doesn’t feel real yet.”

After finishing his bridge midway through the competition, Bemis said he was so nervous, he left: “I couldn’t stand to watch the other bridges.”

It’s a tradition at Riverdale for the sophomores in teacher Mark Wechter’s physics class to enter the contest, yet students in other grades at the Portland school also sign up.

The constructions are truss bridges wrought of basswood, and the more weight that a bridge can bear, the better its score. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Cole Bemis' bridge won first place at the International Bridge Building Competition in Chicago.Students must design the bridges to match certain specifications, and bridge specifications change every year for the annual contest.

“Riverdale doesn’t have a football team, so bridge building is kind of like our football, what we’re most proud of,” said Bemis, 15.

Bemis’ first place bridge held up 49 kilograms, about 108 pounds, and the actual mass of his creation was 9.69 grams. His efficiency rating was 5057, about 400 points higher than his closest competitor. Hollingshead’s bridge had a mass of 10.10 grams and could support 30 kilograms, about 66 pounds, and the efficiency rating was 2970.

“Congrats to both of them,” Haagenson said.

The International Bridge Building Committee oversees the contest, which was created to promote the study of and application of fundamental physics principles and to help students develop hands-on skills, according to the committee’s website.

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By Jillian Daley
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