Concrete Canoe Race, Mid-Pac Conference this week

4/13/2009 | By: Mike Wolterbeek  |

Engineering teams from 11 California universities will be trying to unseat the national champion University of Nevada, Reno concrete canoe team in a regional competition April 17 as part of the annual American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-Pacific conference.

The University of Nevada, Reno is hosting the conference April 17-18, which includes the hotly contested regional concrete canoe competition.

“This is a huge event,” Robert Coomes, conference chairman and past University concrete canoe team member said. “We have 425 engineering students from outside the area coming to Reno. It’s a great economic benefit for the community, but also a chance for undergraduates to put their skills and knowledge to the test and compete against other schools.”

The Saturday conference events will be held on campus and the canoe racing competition will be held at the Sparks Marina on Friday, April 17. The all-day competition runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the concrete canoe races from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Aesthetics and display judging and canoe dunk test is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and the canoe durability judging is from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“The public is welcome to come out to the Marina to watch all of the teams compete, and they can also get a close up look at the boats on Saturday during the steel bridge competition in Lawlor Events Center where the boats will be on display,” Coomes said.

Local spectators are encouraged to wear Nevada Blue when they come out to cheer on the national champion team.

In the canoe event engineering teams are scored on design, final product, technical project presentation and the canoe race.

The Wolf Pack concrete canoe has been curing in the bunker-like depths of the Harry Reid Engineering Laboratory Large-Scale Structures lab and the canoe will see daylight just before the event Friday when it goes up against the other boats from the Mid-pacific region. Except for the University of Nevada, Reno, all of the schools are from California.

“Our huge adversary is UC Berkeley,” Coomes said. “We have a lot on the line. We’re going to have to really bring our skills to the forefront to beat them.” The Nevada team took first place at the national event in Montreal last year and look forward to defending that title at the national competition to be held at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in June.

The Wolf Pack team must place first or second at the regionals to move on to the national competition. In the past three years, they placed first twice and second once at regionals. This canoe will be used in both the regional and national competition.

Other engineering competitions held at the Mid-Pacific Conference are the Water Treatment Competition and the Steel Bridge Competition. Concrete Bowling and the Canoe Tug-of-War, less serious events, are also a part of the conference.

The Water Treatment Competition includes a scenario of a San Francisco Bay Area earthquake with sewer mains broken throughout the region. The engineering students must devise a quick, efficient system to treat and release the wastewater, which is a 10-gallon mixture of water, clay, leaves oil, rusted chicken wire, Jell-O, soil, lemon juice, ground beef and creamed corn. The event is scheduled to be held in front of the Joe Crowley Student Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..

The Steel Bridge Competition scenario challenges the engineering students to replace a 100-year-old bridge that is vital to the region’s economy, so it must be done quickly and to rigorous design, environmental and visual specifications. Much of the team’s score is based on the assembly time, so teams are seen scrambling around their creations piecing the structures together.

At the competition this year, spectators will see teams from eight universities frantically build a 20-foot bridge using 3-foot members.

“Think of a game show challenge trying to build the strongest and quickest," Mike Levi, the Universities steel bridge team project leader said. “After the bridge has been built, spectators and team members will collectively hold their breath as 2500 pounds is loaded onto the bridge, which cannot deflect more than 2 inches.”

Teams will be competing to qualify for a spot at the 2009 National Bridge Competition in Las Vegas, NV. The competition will be held in the Lawlor Events Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All of the competitions are free and open to the public.


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