USU engineers excel in concrete canoe, bridge building

After paddling a lighter-than-water concrete canoe and assembling a 22-foot steel bridge, a USU engineering club finished first overall for the second consecutive year at the American Society of Civil Engineers Rocky Mountain Conference held March 29-31 at the University of Wyoming. The USU chapter of the ASCE won first place in the concrete canoe competition, beating teams from South Dakota, New Mexico and all states in between. The canoe competition was based on four criteria: a technical paper, an oral presentation, a final display and five races. The USU canoe team took first place in three of these criteria, giving it a six-point edge over the second-place team, Colorado State, said Mitch Dabling, a junior studying civil engineering and concrete canoe team captain. The concrete canoe floated because it was made with a type of cement that uses glass rather sand as a filler, he said. The 18-foot canoe weighed 130 pounds and was a half-inch thick — a vast improvement from the team’s massive 317-pound boat from last year, Dabling said. He said, according to competition requirements, the canoe “had to pop back out of the water after being fully submerged.” “Sinking is always kind of a concern,” he said. “But we wear life jackets, and we’ve never sank in the past.” The water in the reservoir — near the University of Wyoming — where the races were held was 60 degrees. The team took first place in the men’s and women’s sprint and endurance races and took third in the co-ed sprint. “We accidentally tipped a little and took in a bit of water, which slowed us down,” Dabling said. The canoe, which the team dubbed “Old Ephraim,” also took first place in the final display portion of the competition. Dabling said this victory could be attributed in part to Zach Scott, a student majoring in landscape architecture and design who painted the canoe with murals of Cache Valley. The 24-member canoe crew has been working on this project since August, Dabling said. The team met weekly over the course of the year and practiced at First Dam at the mouth of Logan Canyon, he said.

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