University continues 11-year-long wake of victories in regional concrete canoe competition

Engineering students look forward to upcoming national competition

Students prep for canoe races.

All hands on deck! University of Nevada, Reno students prepare for race early April 9 at the Concrete Canoe Competition, held locally this year at the Sparks Marina. Photo by Matt Ravaglioli, University of Nevada, Reno.

University continues 11-year-long wake of victories in regional concrete canoe competition

Engineering students look forward to upcoming national competition

All hands on deck! University of Nevada, Reno students prepare for race early April 9 at the Concrete Canoe Competition, held locally this year at the Sparks Marina. Photo by Matt Ravaglioli, University of Nevada, Reno.

Students prep for canoe races.

All hands on deck! University of Nevada, Reno students prepare for race early April 9 at the Concrete Canoe Competition, held locally this year at the Sparks Marina. Photo by Matt Ravaglioli, University of Nevada, Reno.

The University of Nevada, Reno won the first-place title overall at the 2016 Mid-Pacific Regional Concrete Canoe Competition April 9, and for the 11th year in a row are heading to the National Concrete Canoe Championship races. The Mid-Pacific Conference is an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) annual event for civil engineering students to demonstrate leadership skills, teamwork and technical knowledge.

"The event was extremely competitive with very close races, excellent canoes and great presentations," David Sanders, civil engineering professor and faculty advisor for the team, said. "Each year, the team continues to amaze me in their consistent pursuit of excellence. They have much to be proud of, as do we."

The Concrete Canoe Competition consisted of designing and constructing a canoe entirely of concrete and contending against other schools in four categories: paddling, design paper, oral presentation and final product.

The University's canoe team dominated in their competitions during the Saturday races at the Sparks Marina, scoring 96.6 total points out of 100. San Jose State University came in second with 81.4 and Tongji University, from China, placed third with 80 points. While the University of Nevada, Reno only placed third in Men's Sprints and second in the design paper, they took first place in the other seven areas of competition.

The team's 125-pound, 19-foot-long canoe, Zephyr, named after the cove at Lake Tahoe, was deftly handled by well-trained students, paddling the craft in the 200-meter sprint and 750-meter endurance courses around some of the half dozen buoys on the Sparks Marina Lake.

"We named the canoe Zephyr to not only celebrate the lake's natural beauty, but bring awareness to the diminishing quality of water at Lake Tahoe," Danielle Palffy, one of two student team project managers, said.

Saturday's races began with the dunk test. The University quickly scuttled their canoe without any trouble, while some other schools had difficulties submerging and then emptying their crafts of water so they could float again. A slightly overcast sky had the 500-plus participants wondering about the weather, which only produced short periods of light rainfall while staying generally warm and windless. Between the excitement of the races, students participated in a variety of mini-games throughout the day, including concrete bowling, tug-of-war and volleyball.

Nevadan's well-trained canoe teams combined strength and skill to paddle their crafts rapidly across the course, often putting a notable amount of distance between themselves and their competitors. The team opted for a shorter canoe this year for increased mobility, creating excitement in the crowd as onlookers wondered aloud whether the low-riding craft might sink. But the team had practiced with a similarly shaped canoe and were prepared for how it would handle.

"The team is truly amazing and impressive," Sanders said. "Project Managers Evan Jordan and Danielle Palffy did a great job of leading the team of students. We get great University, alumni and community support. Practitioner Advisor Kelly Doyle continues to be right in the middle of it all and the go-to person for the team. The University has much to be proud of."

Thirteen schools were hosted on campus, April 7-9, including three from China. The conference began with canoe teams displaying their crafts on the lawn in front of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on campus while other Mid-Pacific competitions occurred within the Lawlor Events Center, including Steel Bridge and Water Treatment tests. While the University hosted all competitions, they did not participate this year in the Geowall and Transportation Project.

In Steel Bridge, students raced to quickly reconstruct a bridge they had prepared in prefabricated sections. Each year, different chemicals and ingredients are added to Water Treatment to create random water filtration scenarios. The Professional Paper demonstrated participants' knowledge on specific topics and a proposed solution, as well as skills in writing and presenting in front of a panel of judges.

During the three-day conference, the Steel Bridge team faced some difficulties and were disqualified when a mishap caused their bridge to break during construction. The University's Water Treatment team scored seventh overall out of 11 competing teams, and the University's ASCE Student Chapter scored fifth in the Professional Paper.
"I want to congratulate our wonderful students, the department and the faculty involved for this great accomplishment and for exemplifying sustainable excellence," College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis said. "This continued success through many years is simply wonderful and absolutely unique.. My gratitude goes out to all involved in organizing this event."

The team will now travel to the University of Texas in Tyler and compete against 22 teams in the National Championship Competition June 9-11, 2016.

Read more about the team and canoe at the University of Nevada, Reno's website and visit the ASCE's website to learn more about the upcoming national event.

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