Bayfield students build on past successes


BAYFIELD — For the past 21 years, crafty and meticulous students from Bayfield High School have been “picking the teeth” of their competitors at the annual Toothpick Bridge Building Contest held at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

This year, four teams from Bayfield High School participated in the contest. Of the four teams, three of them walked away with first- or second-place prizes, while the other team would have placed if the group hadn’t been “fashionably late.”

Toothpick Bridge Building Contest 2

Toothpick bridges are judged in three categories including most aesthetically pleasing, maximum load and most economical design.

This year, Kenneth Morris and Savannah Deragon won first place for having the strongest toothpick bridge, which supported 193 pounds of suspended sand.

“They had to keep going back to get more sand because they kept on running out,” Morris said.

“As they kept adding sand, everyone was dialed in, watching,” Science Teacher Mark O’Neill said. “You could feel the atmosphere in the room change as they kept adding more.”

Deragon said it was “pretty cool” to represent a school of reigning champions. She said she wasn’t discouraged, but rather encouraged when she heard students from other schools say things like “Oh no, not again,” or “That makes sense because they are from Bayfield.”

Even though it was Deragon’s first year in the competition, she expected her team to win.

“We went in with a lot of confidence and came out with a big win,” Morris agreed.

According to Morris and Deragon, the key to their success was time, patience and dedication. The students put in over 50 hours of work on the design, building and testing of their toothpick bridge. They had to make a number of changes and in the end, used upwards of 500 toothpicks in their final bridge.

To date, Morris and Deragon have the second strongest bridge in competition history. The strongest bridge record was set in 1997 by Bayfield High School alumni Hans Dahl and Bruce Halvorson. Their bridge supported 267 pounds of sand, a goal students at Bayfield High School now aim to beat each year.

According to O’Neill and Science Teacher Rick Erickson, the students generally recycle basic bridge concepts, but always make adjustments to make it uniquely their own.

Lee Schultz, Jaykob Newago, Tim Nelies and Darrell Murphy won second place in the maximum load category for their bridge which supported 178 pounds of suspended sand.

Newago believes the bridge would have held more weight. However, he had to fix it on the bus after accidently sitting on it.

“The glue was still wet,” Newago said. “I think if the glue would have been dry we would have won. But we beat our record last year and it was still quite a bit of weight.”

Chandria Ludwig, Hannah Tutor, Brittany Lozano and Ashton Chambers won first place for having the most economical design. Their bridge weighed 33 grams and was composed of approximately 150 toothpicks.

“She had a very unique design that nobody has tried before,” said O’Neill. “She spent a lot of time carefully cutting her pieces and reinforcing each point.”

Ludwig said she was hopeful about winning but was surprised when the bridge could support 22kg total.

Sonya Henri, Justine Basley and Caitlyn Dilworth were the only team not to officially place in this year competition, a fault that was not their own.

According to Basley, their group received special recognition for having an aesthetically placing design. However, being late they could not officially place.

Approximately 137 bridges from about 20 schools were entered in this year’s competition. South Shore and Mellen were among other districts in the competition.

Student teacher Sean Augustyn accompanied the students to the contest and said it is encouraging to see what healthy competition brings out in the students.

“They are so meticulous,” Augustyn said. “They really do put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work.”

All freshman students at Bayfield High School are required to build a bridge. According to O’Neill and Erickson, the assignment is fun and is what usually sparks student interest in the competition. Students who decide to enter the competition do not receive a grade for their efforts.

“They choose to do it just for fun,” said O’Neill “What starts as a great lesson on forces and vectors has rolled into this tradition of them working hard and designing bridges over this long period of time.”

Erickson said the students on this year’s teams did a great job of upholding the “Bayfield legacy” and looks forward to next year.

Aside from graduating seniors, many of the students anticipate they will build toothpick bridges again next year just to keep Bayfield in the lead.

“We have to defend our title,” several of the students agreed.

“It’s impressive,” O’Neill concluded. “Every year they keep turning out a better and better design.”

Read More: Toothpicks Making Machine



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