Pasta crown stays at home, but champs are science and technology

A high school student from Charles Bloom Secondary in Vernon was the unexpected champion in the 28th Annual Okanagan College International Spaghetti Bridge Building Competition on Friday, but the real winners were science and technology, according to organizers, sponsors and participants.

Johnathan Halbgwachs, a 14-year-old student, built a 965-gram bridge that held 209 kilograms to capture top spot in the competition’s heavyweight category. This is the first year in several that the heavyweight bragging rights haven’t flown across the Atlantic with a team of Hungarian students. (But Halbgwachs’ accomplishment is far from a world record – that was set in 2009 by a team from Hungary with a bridge that weighed 982 grams and held 975 pounds. Another Hungarian team won the competition in 2010, but didn’t break the world record.)

“At the heart of the competition is the idea of promoting science and technology to elementary and high school students,” says Okanagan College’s Vice President of Education, Andrew Hay. “Hundreds of students from throughout our region, from Osoyoos to Revelstoke, show up with pre-built bridges, to build bridges on site and to compete in or watch the heavyweight competition. They leave with a much richer appreciation of how much fun and how exciting it can be to put to work all those principles and theories they’ve been introduced to in school.”

The comments about excitement will probably register for some time with Halbgwachs: he won $1,500 for his efforts.

Second place in the heavyweight competition went to a team of students from Okanagan College, led by Chad Marsh with colleagues Rajveer Dhillon, Cory Konkin, and Tyler Weise.

Third place went to Hungarian student Peter Sandor, from College of Nyíregyhaza.

Henry Murphy was among those excited to see the championship title return to the Okanagan. But like Hay, he sees the real value in the competition to be the link it builds for younger students between fun, excitement, drama and the application of science and technology. Murphy is a representative of the Applied Science, Technicians and Technologists of British Columbia, which is a long-time, major sponsor of the Spaghetti Bridge Contest at Okanagan College.

“Events like this are important because they lead students to look at science and technology in a different light. We know that we need to keep reinforcing the importance of this kind of education and the doors its opens in terms of careers.”

Jason Luff, a teacher from King’s Christian School in Salmon Arm, brought his Robots and Rocketry class of Grade 8 and 9 students to Kelowna for the competition for the first time. During the day, they were able to supplement the contest acitivities with a tour of the College’s engineering technology labs.

“Spaghetti Bridge matches perfectly with this class,” says Luff. “It is a tremendous way to promote and generate student interest in science and technology.”

The winners in the various categories are as follows:

Heavyweight Competition (open to Secondary and full-time Post-secondary students):

1st - Johnathan Halbgwachs, Charles Bloom Secondary
2nd - Chad Marsh, Rajveer Dhillon, Cory Konkin, Tyler Weise, Okanagan College
3rd - Peter Sandor, College of Nyíregyhaza, Hungary
4th - Patrick D'amour, Jeff Earl, Scott Juniper, Jarod Kawalle, Okanagan College
5th - Sean Potter, Brad Heard, Colm Friar, Clint Bannister

Post-Secondary (Lightest bridge built, that has to hold a 2-kilogram weight for five minutes without failing)
1st - Peter Denes, College of Nyíregyhaza, Hungary (bridge weighed 126 grams)

Secondary (Lightest bridge built, that has to hold a one-kilogram weight for five minutes)
1st - Clayton Mazu, Charles Bloom Secondary
2nd - Anna Offenwanger, George Elliott Secondary
3rd - Elizabeth Hardy, KLO Middle
4th - Kenedi Hurlburt, KLO Middle
5th - Landon Rahn, Revelstoke Secondary

Post Secondary Teams (Bridge built on day of competition, according to rules revealed in the morning of the competition)

1st - Chris Pieper, Okanagan College
2nd - Peter Denes, Peter Sandor, College of Nyíregyhaza, Hungary
3rd - Cory Konkin, George Winter, Luke Sebastianis, Okanagan College

Secondary Teams (Bridge built on day of competition, according to rules revealed in the morning of the competition)

1st - Rebecca Ruthven, Kenedi Hurlburt, Kohl Rieger, KLO Middle
2nd - Brock Pendergraft, Austin Harrison, Jordan Konti, Karsten Coty-Schell, Osoyoos Secondary School
3rd - Alex Ewing, Glenrosa Middle School