Tech's annual bed races on Park Street in Butte

Maxwell Triepke steers and Garrett Strine holds on while Tech students push the mechanical engineering majors down Park Street for the annual Homecoming bed races on Friday afternoon in Butte.

Montana Tech students took a break from hitting the books Friday as they donned helmets and knee pads to take part in the university’s annual bed race — a competition in which teams build beds on wheels and compete to race them downhill in the quickest time.

Friday’s bed race was just one of several events that took place this week in honor of Tech’s homecoming. Student clubs also competed in bowling, trivia and more, during which they earned points based on their participation and performance. At the end of the week, teams with the most points will earn cash prizes, with a first-place award of $500.

As far as anyone knows, the yearly competition has been part of the University’s homecoming week for at least 20 years.

Doug Abbott, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, and his wife Mary North-Abbott met as students at Montana Tech.

The two said they can remember the bed races taking place when they were attending the university in the 1980s.

Doug Abbott said the quality of the bed designs has improved over the years, noting that he can recall one year when students raced in a bunk bed that crashed. Another year, nursing students raced in a hospital bed and discovered that it, too, was not an ideal form of transportation.

Michelle Cline, Taylen Cordes and Mackenzie Koetter were among several students competing on a team from the university’s nursing department Friday. A urine drainage bag served as the figurehead of their racing bed, adding a touch of humor.

When asked what their design concept was, Cline replied, “to survive,” noting that she was part of the team that crashed in a hospital bed during a previous competition.

Scott Rosenthal is the department head of Tech’s mining engineering department, and he says the bed race is something that students look forward to each year. It’s an event halfway through the semester, he said, that helps students “blow off steam.”

A club from his department presented a racing bed Friday that was shaped a bit like a Formula One car.

“Well, we thought it’s a race, so it’s got to look fast. But it’s a bed,” said mining engineering senior Seth Salusso, noting that the design is inspired by a child’s racecar bed.

To win the bed race, teams completed in brackets, tournament style. To compete, two to four students had to ride in the beds, while other team members pushed them down a hill on Park Street that runs through the center of campus.

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Another bed design put forward Friday was created by students from the environmental engineering department. The design featured a motorcycle front with a hydraulic brake system and bike wheels in the back.

Riding the team’s racing bed was senior Kile Denny, who was tightening her helmet when she told The Montana Standard that she has a need for speed.

Denny has taken part in the competition all four years of her college experience, but this year is the first time she has ridden the bed.

“I like to go fast, so hopefully it’s fun,” Denny said, adding that she wasn’t nervous about riding the racing bed.

“I am speed,” she added, laughing.

When asked what keeps her coming back to the competition each year, she said that she finds the race entertaining and enjoys earning money for her club. “And it’s the spirit of homecoming, so we gotta represent.”

Mechanical engineering juniors Garrett Strine and Maxwell Triepke represented their team Friday by wearing Power Ranger outfits. They said they hoped to do well in the competition and earn enough points for a cash prize, which they plan to put toward the cost of attending an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference.

The two said they built their racing bed in two nights. It took about 22 hours, the two said, proving they can take college-student cramming to a whole new level.

One might assume that an engineering club took it all this year. But coming in first in the bed race Friday was a team from the American Society of Safety Professionals.

Katey Walsh, a senior occupational safety student, said her team’s strategy was to put the lightest team members on the bed and have the strongest push.

And of course, everyone on the team was sure to wear their personal protective equipment.

“Safety first always, I guess,” said Walsh, perhaps coining a new team motto.

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