Near Record in Northeast Bridge Building Competition

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by jamesc  5/12/2014 8:13:16 PM -- 

NORFOLK – She knew she was running out time, but Leann Skokan plowed ahead and went for the record in Northeast Community College’s bridge building competition recently. Unfortunately, it took less than a second for gravity to destroy the project it took her hours to construct.


Skokan, of Verdigre, was one of nine second year drafting students to take part in the annual competition, sponsored by the College’s drafting program. The event has grown to the point that it was moved from a drafting program classroom in the Maclay building to the nearly 300 seat Cox Activities Center Theatre on the Norfolk campus. 

Skokan’s popsicle stick and glue structure held 920 pounds, or 263 times its own weight, putting her second on the all-time list. Last year’s winner and record holder, Adam Krueger, was in the audience to witness the competition. His 2.5 pound bridge held 630 pounds, or 272 times its own weight.

Michael Holcomb and Harry Lindner, two of Northeast’s CAD/drafting instructors on the Norfolk campus, organize the annual competition. Holcomb said the students created blueprints for their bridges and then constructed them. “In this competition, we wanted to see if each of the student’s bridges could hold at least 50 times its weight. If they achieved that, they received an “A” on this project,” he said.

Each student was also allowed to use fish line in their structures, but interestingly just two of the bridges contained fish line along with the sticks and glue.

If the students choose to go the extra distance and not take their bridges home intact, they could go for the record, which they all attempted. Five students in this year’s competition made it on to the record list, which goes back four years. Records were not kept in the first four years of the annual competition.

In addition to Skokan, the four other competitors in this year’s competition who entered the Top 25 all-time list include Catherine Martinez, of Norfolk, who achieved the eleventh spot. Her bridge held 127 times its own weight. Zachary Turek, of Burwell, is #17. His bridge held 103 times its own weight. Cody Schantz, of Norfolk, is #21. His bridge held 92 pounds its own weight. Devin Doering, of Norfolk, is #22. His bridge held 90 times its own weight.

Other competitors in this year’s competition included Bryce Attema, Shelby Hopkins, and Lisa Woehl, of Norfolk, and Albert Ponder, of Atlanta, Georgia.

The Northeast Drafting program has two concentrations available to students. One is architectural drafting where students learn to design residential and commercial structures using two-dimensional and three-dimensional CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. The second concentration offered at the College Center in South Sioux City, by Instructor Danny Whitlock, is the industrial facility concentration. Students are trained to develop detailed working drawings for use in the manufacturing and industrial facilities.

Other areas covered in both concentrations are preparing material-takeoffs and cost estimates, construction surveying, developing building information models (BIM). After graduating from Northeast, students may find employment with architectural and engineering firms, general contractors, facility and building maintenance engineering departments.

Employment of drafters is expected to grow six percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Holcomb said in the drafting field, there are more jobs than he has students. “We have had several students find employment at the Nucor (Detailing Center) or Vulcraft. This year, we have a student who will be employed with Sentinal in Albion, another is going into engineering, one is working in maintenance at Northeast, and three others are pursuing drafting jobs.”

Students in the Northeast broadcasting and audio recording technology programs recorded the bridge building competition from several different angles. A program will air Tuesday, May 13, at 5 p.m. and again on Friday, May 16, at 11 a.m. on KHWK/Hawk TV on CableOne Channel 20. It can also be viewed at


                                                                PHOTO CUTLINE

Community College drafting students Cody Schantz of Stanton, (left), and Leann Skokan, of Verdigre, and Michael Holcomb, CAD/drafting instructor, watch as Skokan’s popsicle stick-built bridge collapses under the weight of 920 pounds. Skokan’s bridge held 263 times its own weight in the annual competition, putting her second on the competition’s all-time list.

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