June 2, 2004
Contact: Chris Harrison
The Catholic University of America will welcome more than 250 civil engineering students June 18-20, when they gather to race in the 17th National Concrete Canoe Competition. CUA’s School of Engineering and the university’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) are co-sponsoring and co-organizing the race, which will be held the morning of Sunday, June 20, at Lake Fairfax in Reston, Va.
CUA engineering students show off one of their recent entries in the regional concrete canoe competition.
“We’re delighted to host the competition this year,” said Charles Nguyen, dean of CUA’s School of Engineering. “Our civil engineering students and faculty at CUA have benefited tremendously from the experience they’ve gained from participating in and now co-organizing the National Concrete Canoe Competition. This event adds an exciting and practical dimension to our curriculum.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers and Master Builders, Inc., in partnership with the National Building Museum, are presenting this year’s National Concrete Canoe Competition as part of the opening weekend festivities celebrating the LaFarge-sponsored exhibit at the National Building Museum: “Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete.” By serving as the host campus for the event, CUA will house competitors and provide space for the event’s awards banquet, to be held at the conclusion of race day.
The National Concrete Canoe Competition challenges students from 22 of North America’s top civil engineering schools to make the impossible a reality — designing, building and racing canoes made primarily of concrete that actually float. Students prepare year-round for a chance to participate at the national level, competing in one of 18 regional competitions. The team that places first, and in some cases second, earns the right to represent their region at the national competition.
“The biggest thing you get out of the competition isn’t learning how to build a concrete canoe — it’s working with people on your team,” said junior Chris Smith, a civil engineering major who has worked on CUA’s team for the past two years. “Leadership and project management skills will be important down the road when we go into the field. The race gives you experience in those areas that you wouldn’t necessarily get in the classroom.”
CUA students and faculty will be sitting out the race this year in order to devote their energy to serving as hosts and co-organizers, but are looking forward to building an entry for next year’s competition, says CUA Associate Professor Panos Tsopelas, adviser for CUA’s student chapter of ASCE.
“While the competition may focus on the concrete canoe races, the intent is to let the students understand the importance of teamwork and communication,” Tsopelas says. “Along the way, students learn how to design a structure – in this case, a canoe – and learn about materials with required properties for the structure’s design. They design experiments to test the materials for their necessary properties, and make presentations of the results of their endeavors. These are all important parts of being civil engineers."
Far from the floating bathtubs you might envision, concrete canoes competing at the national level typically resemble fiberglass racing canoes and boast sophisticated designs aimed at achieving the best combination of speed and maneuverability. Many of these canoes are lighter than those constructed of traditional materials and feature walls only ¼-inch thick. The students achieve this effect by experimenting with admixtures such as latex, superplasticizers, fly ash and high-tech aggregates to develop extremely lightweight and super-strong concrete mixes.
Industry-leading admixture supplier Master Builders, Inc., the founding sponsor of the competition, provides scholarship prizes to the top three overall ranking teams in the finals and additional funds to defray costs associated with traveling to and competing in the national event.
"We wish every one of the 22 concrete canoe teams welcome and good luck in the competition, and hope they will find their time in the nation's capital and at Catholic University enjoyable," says Professor Poul Lade, chair of CUA’s Department of Civil Engineering.
For more information about the event, contact Chris Harrison in CUA’s Office of Public Affairs, at 202-319-5600 or visit the main race Web site at: http://www.asce.org/inside/nccc2004/index.cfm.
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