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Bridge builders take models to breaking point at Porter County Fair

Sophie DeRuntz 11 Valparaiso pours sbucket see how much weight her bridge will hold during model bridge contest Friday Porter

Sophie DeRuntz, 11, of Valparaiso, pours sand in a bucket to see how much weight her bridge will hold during the model bridge contest Friday at the Porter County Fair. The bridge held 18 1/2 lbs. of sand before it snapped. | Sun-Times Media

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For more on the 164th annual Porter County Fair, go to
www.portercountyfair.com,
or call (219) 462-0321.

Updated: August 20, 2014 6:14AM



VALPARAISO — Sophie DeRuntz was just getting ready to put more sand in the bucket that her bridge was holding when it happened.

With a snap, the bridge gave way.

Still, the Valparaiso girl, 11, was pleased enough that the bridge held 18½ pounds for her first effort Friday in the Porter County Fair’s 4-H model bridge contest.

“I think I did pretty well. My dad and I followed the directions and made it lightweight and strong,” she said, adding she didn’t know what to expect.

In all, 25 kids took part in the competition. The bridges were made with basswood, and had to meet specifications for length and width, project superintendent Lou Donkle said.

“But within that range they can build any bridge they want,” he said, adding the bridges were judged on their structural efficiency ratio, the weight held by the bridge divided by the weight of the bridge.

The champion bridges hold approximately 2,000 times their weight.

“Some of these bridges will hold close to 200 pounds and they weigh 20 to 50 grams,” he said, adding last year’s winner held 241 pounds.

A bucket attached to each bridge is loaded with sand, but because each bucket only holds 50 pounds of sand, free weights get piled on until the bridges break. Judges weigh the sand —and weights, if they’re needed — to determine how much the bridges hold.

No one gets too attached to the bridges because they don’t last that long.

“We break every one,” Donkle said.

Nate Kirk spent a few hours making his bridge during a 4-H workshop. His bridge held 37 pounds, and the Valparaiso boy, 11, already was coming up with ideas on how to make it better next year.

“I liked pouring the sand into the bucket and seeing what was going wrong with my bridge when it was breaking,” he said. “This year, we didn’t get to design our own, but next year I want to make the sides stronger because that’s where it was breaking.”



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