BCHS students help out with Ice Melt Contest raft redesign

Dillon Rotary Club members (left to right) Raymond Graham, Jim McIsaac, Craig Rehm and Dan Pence set up the new and improved Ice Melt Contest raft last week on Logan’s Lake. The raft recently underwent a remodeling by BCHS shop teacher Bill Wagner and his students. M.P. Regan photo


Tick-tock, tick-tock—SPLASH!

Exactly when the fateful thaw occurs that stops the 2014 Dillon Rotary Ice Melt Contest clock is anyone’s guess.

And plenty of people started officially guessing, with the start of contest ticket sales last week after the placement of the elaborate timing contraption on frozen Logan’s Lake, just west of I-15.

But the four Rotary members who dragged the contest raft across the lake’s ice know one thing for sure about their trusty contraption: it was easier getting it to the middle of the frozen lake this year than it was in years past. And it’s going to be a whole lot easier getting it back to shore when the lake thaws, thanks to a recent redesign of the raft by Beaverhead County High School shop teacher Bill Wagner and his wood shop students.

“It’s been downsized to something more manageable,” noted Dan Pence, who was part of the four-man team of Rotary members – that also included Jim McIsaac, Raymond Graham and Craig Rehm, – that placed the raft on the lake last Wednesday.

“I think it’s pretty cool what they did with the raft. It weighs about 200 pounds less than it did before, and we’d really like to thank Bill Wagner and his students for doing that.

“It used to be tough enough getting it out there, but it was a lot tougher when we had to bring it back to shore when the ice melted and, then lift it into a pickup truck. This year, that probably won’t be very hard at all.”

Pence last year floated the idea of making the raft more manageable to Wagner, who this school year assigned the project to his Wood I and Wood II classes.

“Dan Pence said it would be nice if it we could make it easier for them to get it out of the water in spring,” said Wagner of the raft, which previously had a base made of old wooden logs beneath its deceptively sophisticated timing device designed to let organizers know exactly what day, hour and minute the lake ice melts beneath the raft.

“Nobody really knew what it was until Mr. Wagner explained it to us,” said BCHS freshman Ashley Sitz, recalling when her sixth period Wood I class first got a look at the old raft.

“But I thought it was cool. I had never worked on something like that before,” said Sitz, who, according to Wagner, played a big part in transforming the look of the raft by repainting large portions of it and helping reassemble it.

“I don’t even remember what color it was before, kind of an ugly brown,” said Pence, a past two-time Rotary president, who noted that much of the proceeds from the Ice Melt Contest will go to funding scholarships for local students. “The students painted it a nice blue color that fits in more with where it sits on the lake.”

“It wasn’t that time-consuming of a project,” said Wagner, who, according to Sitz, deserves credit for coming up with the idea of lightening the raft by replacing its heavy old logs with lightweight, blue PVC pipe.

“Scattered across several periods, it ended up taking about a week and a half to complete,” revealed Wagner, who said many of his students deserve kudos for putting in a lot of good work on the project, including Sitz and her sophomore sister Amber, Eric Malmquist, Madison Sorden, Parker Jones, Nate Johnson and J.D. Ferris.

Pence said the raft redesign will almost certainly save the Rotarians time and effort, while Wagner thanked the Rotary Club for giving his students the chance to spend some of their classroom time and efforts on a project that fulfills one of his main educational objectives.

“One of my goals as wood shop teacher is to get the kids involved in projects that give back to the community, and we saw this as one of those kind of projects,” said Wagner, who also teaches U.S. history, government and driver’s ed at BCHS, where in the past he’s had his students repair sidewalks in town and host barbecue benefits.

“I find that when kids find out they can work on something for the community, they are very supportive and actively enjoy it.”


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Tickets for the annual Rotary Club Ice Melt Contest can be purchased from any of the contest advertisers listed on event posters you will see all over town. Contestants designate the date and time of day they believe the clock will fall through the melted ice, along with a high temperature for the day it happens for tiebreaking purposes. The contestant who most accurately predicts when the ice melts and the clock stops will win $500, with the second-place finisher earning $250, and the bronze medalist collecting $100. The rest of the proceeds from the event will go to local charitable causes and to fund scholarships for area students.

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