BYU students build floating concrete canoe

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When most people think of canoes, they probably envision a standard wooden canoe floating peacefully in a lake. However, students at BYU have done the impossible and built something completely opposite: a concrete canoe that floats.

Each year the American Society of Civil Engineers host the National Concrete Canoe Competition. A team of BYU students are preparing to enter their canoe in the Rocky Mountain Conference competition which takes place March 29 to April 1 at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. Although the team is looking forward to competing, they still are questionable about the cold weather.

“It’s in Laramie, and the paddling is still outside,” said Kelvin Smith, a senior from Chino, Calif. studying civil engineering. “So …  it’s going to be really cold this year.”

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]The competition has four graded sections which include judging of the canoe, a 15-page paper about the design process the team went through, an oral presentation and the racing of canoes. For the past two years, the BYU team has placed second at the Rocky Mountain Conference and just missed qualifying for nationals.

Team leader Ashley Blood, a senior studying civil engineering from McLean, Va., first got involved after hearing about the club at a civil engineer seminar. For the past two years, Blood has been actively involved in the club. She said preparing for the competition at the end of March is a year-round process.

[pullquote]”Fall semester is designing it, deciding our concrete mix, planning it and making computer drawings of it [the canoe],” Blood said. “Winter semester is actually building it, which takes about another three months.”[/pullquote]

“Fall semester is designing it, deciding our concrete mix, planning it and making computer drawings of it [the canoe],” Blood said. “Winter semester is actually building it, which takes about another three months.”

The team is currently in the process of adding the bulkheads, which are the tips of the canoe, to either end. After this stage is complete, the concrete must set and then the next month is dedicated to sanding the canoe down and putting on all the finishing touches. The team also plans to paint their team name of ‘Sea-duck-tion’ on the canoe as well.

Smith, who has worked on the canoe for the past two years, said it has been a great learning experience. Smith said he believes practicing the design process for the canoe has translated directly into what he learned in his classes.

“The whole experience is about teamwork,” Smith said. “And making the best product possible from design to use.”

According to Smith, team members are made up of an even ratio of upper classmen to lower classmen. The club tries to have high turnover numbers in order to create a better program every year. Though the seminar recruits many new members, Smith also helped author a paper about the Rocky Mountain Conference aimed at promoting the club and the concrete canoe portion itself.  Natalie Petrowsky, a sophomore from Ventura, Calif., studying civil engineering, said such recruiting drew her to the competition.

“They advertised it in the seminar and it sounded cool,” Petrowsky said. “It’s tons of fun and I have lots of friends here. It’s cool building a canoe out of concrete that floats.”

Team members are completely focused on presenting their best work to the judges. In addition to designing and polishing the canoe, the team also holds practices for rowing portion of the competition.

While excited to be part of such a great event, many team menbers feel the competition will continue to benefit them long into the future.

“Who thought concrete could float?” Blood said. “I’m applying for different jobs and internships and at every interview I’ve had, this [concrete canoe] comes up. If I get a job this summer, it’s because of the concrete canoe.”

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