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May 23, 2012
By Mike Wolterbeek
They build canoes out of concrete. Concrete they design and engineer so it can float. Then they race. "They" are the top 22 teams of students from around the country who will be competing in the 25th Annual ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno June 14-16.
The competition opens Thursday, June 14 when the teams report to the University’s Quad with their canoes between 7 and 11 a.m. That morning each team must swamp its canoe in a huge tank, and the canoe must return to the surface and continue to float to be eligible to race. There will also be team canoe displays and judging throughout the afternoon.
After a day of closed, design-paper presentations by teams on Friday, the event continues with the paddling competition on Saturday, June 16 at the Sparks Marina Lake, in the City of Sparks, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The competition concludes with a banquet and awards Saturday evening at the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Each year more than 5,000 students from 200 colleges and universities design, construct and race concrete canoes in 18 regional American Society of Civil Engineers competitions. The winners of the regional competitions and returning finalists, numbering 22 schools and 400 participants, will meet at the national competition in Reno.
"This is a great honor for Nevada and the University," Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering said of the event known as the "America's Cup of Civil Engineering." "It shows the dedication of our students, with strong administration support, to bring this high-caliber event to Reno."
The competition is more than a race to see who has the fastest concrete canoe. It gives engineering students the opportunity to learn valuable lessons in concrete materials, mix design and performance, engineering, negotiation, teamwork and project management.
Canoes range from 16 to 22 feet long and weigh from 75 to 450 pounds. There are five racing divisions: women's endurance, men's endurance, women's sprint, men's sprint and coed sprint. The races account for 25 percent of the teams' scores, with the presentation, design and final product also accounting for 25 percent each.
The idea for hosting the nationals in Reno came after the Nevada Concrete Canoe Team, made up of mostly civil engineering students in the local ASCE chapter, hosted the Mid-Pacific Student Conference in 2009 that included teams from 12 schools in northern California and Nevada.
"We were very impressed with the organization, enthusiasm and support that we saw from students, faculty, staff and administration during the site visit and know that UNR will do a fantastic job in hosting this important event," Ping Wei, director of Educational Activates for ASCE, said.
The ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition provides students with a practical application of the engineering principles they learn in the classroom, along with important team and project management skills they will need in their careers. The event challenges the students' knowledge, creativity and stamina, while showcasing the versatility and durability of concrete as a building material.
The 22 Universities qualified to compete are: University of Nevada, Reno; University of Evansville; Clemson University; Louisiana Tech University; University of Wisconsin - Madison; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; University of Pittsburg at Johnstown; Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville; University of Wisconsin - Platteville; University of California, Berkeley; Universite Laval; University of Massachusetts, Lowell; Michigan Technological University; Youngstown University; Oregon State University; California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Utah State University; University of Florida; University of Texas at Tyler; Ecole de technologie superieure, and Fairmont State University.